Thursday, December 03, 2009

Church Unity and the Future of Anglicanism

One of the reasons I was eager to join the Anglican Communion was because I became convinced that it was the way forward - for realizing the unity among catholic and reformed impulses in the church. Dr. Peter Kreeft - a Dutchman who made the journey all the way to Rome from the Reformed camp - lays out the issues beautifully. I wanted to give you the opportunity to read for yourself. (Source: the Layman.)
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Boston College’s Dr. Peter Kreeft, a professor of philosophy, kicked off Southern Evangelical Seminary’s 16th annual National Conference on Christian Apologetics with a call and challenge.

Openly acknowledging his perspective from “one side of the confessional,” Kreeft set out an argument for visible Christian unity that would strengthen the witness of the Christian Church in the world.

Kreeft was speaking at the 2009 National Conference on Christian Apologetics at Hickory Grove Baptist Church in Charlotte, N.C. Approximately 2,500 attended the two-day conference, “Apologetics and the Local Church,” held Nov. 13-14 and sponsored by Southern Evangelical Seminary.

“The devil is very clever. He attacks the Church from within and from without,” Kreeft reminded the audience of pastors, seminary students and committed Christians. “His tactic is to divide and conquer. If you can get your enemies to fight with each other then you win without much effort.”

To answer that attack, Kreeft proposed an “apologetic for Church reunification” based on Jesus’ appeal for unity in John 17 and the theology of the body of Christ.

“For 1,000 years,” he said, “the Church was one. So, it is possible …. Once upon a time Humpty Dumpty was sitting on the wall, in one piece. So, just because we cannot see how to get him back into one piece does not mean that it is impossible.”

Kreeft then asked the question that was reasonably on the minds of everyone in the room, “How?” “Well,” he answered, “first we have to want to do it.”

“Sometimes you only see the roadmap after you’ve traveled it. Love is like that and faith … the mind sees God only after believing, not before. The motor that drives the mind is always the heart, the will. When the Pharisees asked ‘how can we understand your teachings?,’ Jesus replied that one must do the will of the Father – it’s a matter of the will, then the mind,” Kreeft opined.

Kreeft argued that the original “split” in the Church of Jesus Christ, that between the Eastern and Western varieties of Christianity, was more about politics than theology. “But the 1517 division,” Kreeft acknowledged, “that split was theological. And theology is a non-negotiable thing. Are we saved by faith alone or by faith plus good works? Luther argued the former; the Council of Trent settled on the later.” What resulted was the reality of the Protestant and Catholic division of the body of Christ.

Why? What was so important that the visible unity of the Church would suffer such fracture? Kreeft’s answer was simple, “theology.”

“Theology is about absolutes. Politics is about relativities. So, you can never solve theological problems with politics. It will not work. You cannot compromise on theology. Ever,” Kreeft affirmed.

Then he declared, “You may not have heard this, but the Reformation is over.” Kreeft then presented “The Decree on Justification” approved by the Vatican, the Anglicans, the Lutherans, the Methodists and others as evidence. The decree declares that Christians, both Roman Catholic and Protestant, “really do agree in essence on the issue of justification, without compromise.”

Kreeft continued, “No one 50 years ago thought that was possible. Except one guy, who in the 1950’s wrote Luther and Aquinas on Justification, arguing that they were both arguing from the same source, namely, the Bible. So they are both right without contradiction and without compromise.”

Luther, argued that those who are saved are saved by faith alone through grace alone in Christ alone, made his arguments from Romans and Galatians. “So,” Kreeft affirms, “he’s right.”

“The Council of Trent, arguing that those who are saved are saved by faith and good works, made their argument from James and I Corinthians 13. So, they too, are right.”

The real conversation, Kreeft contended, is in the definition of faith. “By faith,” he asks, “do you mean ‘justified’ or do you mean ‘perfected?’”

“Justification is achieved by grace alone, yes; sanctification by grace plus works, yes. We’re saved but we’re not fully sanctified. His work in us and our work in response. The roots are not yet fruits,” he said.

Kreeft then led the audience through a philosophical exploration of the question, “What is faith?” He acknowledged that faith is both essentially an intellectual apprehension (one must believe) and essentially an act by which you accept Jesus Christ into your soul … which inevitably produces good works. This combination, Kreeft contends, “is saving faith.”

Challenging his audience to consider an ecclesiastical apologetic for reunification, Kreeft pleaded, “We need each other. The body needs all its organs. The Church is not an organization. It is an organism. … to tear apart the body of Christ is a blasphemy, an obscenity against the body of Christ.”

Kreeft’s theology of the body seeks to teach Protestants and Catholics alike. “Christ does not have more than one body, one house. The house may have been divided by sin, but the integrity of the unity of the house still stands. And “everyone in the whole house needs the precious things that now exist in different parts of the house.”

Kreeft then outlines the things that Catholics need to learn from Protestants – things they have forgotten, including:
  • Primacy of Jesus: Christ is not one element among many. He is everything. He is the center. He is the foundation.
  • Primacy of faith: You cannot have fruits without roots.
  • Primacy of Scripture: All other authority is based on the authority of Scripture.
  • Importance of evangelism and the diversity of gifts.

He then enumerated things that Protestants need to learn from Catholics:

  • The body of Christ is physical, literal and concrete. It’s not an ideal – that’s Gnosticism and it’s a heresy. God has a physical life, forever. Christ did not get out of His body when He rose again – He rose physically. The second person of the Trinity has a human body, forever.
  • What is saved is the Church, not just individuals. Salvation is simultaneously individual and collective.
  • Absolute importance of works of love. It is part of the Gospel, part of the main course, not dessert.
  • The Scripture is always taught by a teacher – the teacher and the book go together. We do not worship the book, we worship God. The Word comes alive in the hands of a living teacher.
  • Christ is present in the Eucharist. You can debate “how” but you cannot debate “whether.”

In conclusion, Kreeft asserted that “we have to be open to the mysterious and unknown and something we cannot see, yet. Stop being a control freak and let God be God. Who knows what will happen?”

The philosopher showed through arguing, “now, it has to be a ‘more’ not a ‘less.’ Catholics will become more Catholic by greater exposure to and cooperation with Evangelicals. Evangelicals will become more Evangelical by greater exposure to and cooperation with Catholics.”

Kreeft acknowledged that very idea of Church reunification is too big and too much for many people to even consider. “Our problem should always be that which we consider ‘too big,’ lest we settle for things that are ‘too small.’”

Kreeft challenged his listeners, “You have to be a fanatic. Good fanaticism – you cannot love God too much. You cannot love love too much. You cannot love unity too much. You cannot love the lost too much. It cannot be overdone – it is your fidelity to God, alone.”

How, you ask? Kreeft answers, “One foot up and one foot down. Make a step in the direction of God’s desire: unity.”

Peter Kreeft, Ph.D., is a professor of philosophy at Boston College and at the King’s College (Empire State Building), in New York City. He is a regular contributor to several Christian publications, is in wide demand as a speaker at conferences, and is the author of more than 55 books including: Handbook of Christian Apologetics, Christianity for Modern Pagans and Fundamentals of the Faith. For more information about him or his books, visit his Web site.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Global Warming farfromproven

fahrfromprovin fahrfromproven farfromprovin climategate

Anybody remember those old Fahrvergn├╝gen commercials?

They spawned a whole industry of cheap t-shirts of German-sounding neologisms:

Fahrfrompoopin - constipated

Fahrfromthinkin - an idiot

Fahrfrompukin - partying

Fahrfromnewgen - old/used

You get the picture. Anyway, I've been thinking of a new word to describe the fiasco over the fake science & data manipulation that has been at the heart of the global warming scam. Here's what I've come up with: FARFROMPROVEN

It's time to face the facts. Anthropogenic global warming isn't's a religion for people with a deficient apocalyptic.

Advent gives us a chance to look at the coming King who will truly baptize the world with Fire, and find Him while he still presents himself in the vulnerability of the incarnation.

John Stuart Mill on war & cowardice

"War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself. As long as justice and injustice have not terminated their ever-renewing fight for ascendancy in the affairs of mankind, human beings must be willing, when need is, to do battle for the one against the other."
John Stuart Mill (1806-1873)
The Contest in America.” Harper's New Monthly Magazine, Volume 24, Issue 143, page 683-684. Harper & Bros., New York, April 1862.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

C. S. Lewis on Progress

"We all want progress, but if you're on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive."

— C. S. Lewis

Monday, November 30, 2009

Feast of St. Andrew


Psalm 19 or 19:1-6
Deuteronomy 30:11-14
Romans 10:8b-18
Matthew 4:18-22

Preface of Apostles

Collect: Almighty God, who gave such grace to your apostle Andrew that he readily obeyed the call of your Son Jesus Christ, and brought his brother with him: Give unto us, who are called by your Word, grace to follow him without delay, and to bring those near to us into his gracious presence; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

Icon of St. AndrewMost references to Andrew in the New Testament simply include him on a list of the Twelve Apostles, or group him with his brother, Simon Peter. But he appears acting as an individual three times in the Gospel of John. When a number of Greeks (perhaps simply Greek-speaking Jews) wish to speak with Jesus, they approach Philip, who tells Andrew, and the two of them tell Jesus (Jn 12:20-22). (It may be relevant here that both "Philip" and "Andrew" are Greek names.) Before Jesus feeds the Five Thousand, it is Andrew who says, "Here is a lad with five barley loaves and two fish." (Jn 6:8f) And the first two disciples whom John reports as attaching themselves to Jesus (Jn 1:35-42) are Andrew and another disciple (whom John does not name, but who is commonly supposed to be John himself -- John never mentions himself by name, a widespread literary convention). Having met Jesus, Andrew then finds his brother Simon and brings him to Jesus. Thus, on each occasion when he is mentioned as an individual, it is because he is instrumental in bringing others to meet the Saviour. In the Episcopal Church, the Fellowship of Saint Andrew is devoted to encouraging personal evangelism, and the bringing of one's friends and colleagues to a knowledge of the Gospel of Christ.

Just as Andrew was the first of the Apostles, so his feast is taken in the West to be the beginning of the Church Year. (Eastern Christians begin their Church Year on 1 September.) The First Sunday of Advent is defined to be the Sunday on or nearest his feast (although it could equivalently be defined as the fourth Sunday before Christmas Day).

Several centuries after the death of Andrew, some of his relics were brought by a missionary named Rule to Scotland, to a place then known as Fife, but now known as St. Andrew's, and best known as the site of a world-famous golf course and club. For this reason, Andrew is the patron of Scotland.

When the Emperor Constantine established the city of Byzantium, or Constantinople, as the new capital of the Roman Empire, replacing Rome, the bishop of Byzantium became very prominent. Five sees (bishoprics) came to be known as patriarchates: Rome, Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem, and Byzantium. Now, the congregation at Rome claimed the two most famous apostles, Peter and Paul, as founders. Antioch could also claim both Peter and Paul, on the explicit testimony of Scripture, and of course Jerusalem had all the apostles. Alexandria claimed that Mark, who had been Peter's "interpreter" and assistant, and had written down the Gospel of Mark on the basis of what he had heard from Peter, had after Peter's death gone to Alexandria and founded the church there. Byzantium was scorned by the other patriarchates as a new-comer, a church with the political prestige of being located at the capital of the Empire, but with no apostles in its history. Byzantium responded with the claim that its founder and first bishop had been Andrew the brother of Peter. They pointed out that Andrew had been the first of all the apostles to follow Jesus (John 1:40-41), and that he had brought his brother to Jesus. Andrew was thus, in the words of John Chrysostom, "the Peter before Peter." As Russia was Christianized by missionaries from Byzantium, Andrew became the patron not only of Byzantium but also of Russia.

Andrew is the national saint of Scotland (thus appreciated, even by Presbyterians! - Ed.). George (23 Apr) is the national saint of England, Patrick (17 Mar) of Ireland, and Dewi = David (1 Mar) of Wales. George, who was a soldier, is customarily pictured as a knight with a shield that bears a red cross on a white background. This design is therefore the national flag of England. It is said that Andrew was crucified on a Cross Saltire -- an 'X' -shaped cross. His symbol is a Cross Saltire, white on a blue background. This is accordingly the national flag of Scotland. A symbol of Patrick is a red cross saltire on a white background. The crosses of George and Andrew were combined to form the Union Jack, or flag of Great Britain, and later the cross of Patrick was added to form the present Union Jack. Wales does not appear as such (sorry!). Whether there is a design known as the cross of David, I have no idea.

by James Kiefer

Competitive Vulnerability

Novelist Sara Maitland coined the term “competitive vulnerability” to describe those who believe their pain must be bigger than that of others so that they achieve a moral high-ground or greater voice or more grievances to be redressed.

There's a problem here - especially for people that are working to be pastors: If all I'm looking for in your hurt is to see your bet and raise it, I'm looking at it the wrong way. Sadly, this is all too often the tactic taken in church disagreements.

Abraham Maslow once said, "If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail. " Mainline seminaries have sold out to the "oppression / patriarchy / issues" ticket, and are creating ordinands that are incapable of reflecting on ethical, theological, biblical, or political issues outside of that framework. And the people (parishioners & clergy) are poorer for it.