Month: January 2016

We have previously written of the case of a faithful priest forced out over gay marriage In the Episcopal diocese of Kentucky. I have also since heard privately from a friend about a Presbyterian minister in Montana who may be about to resign in a struggle with some liberal members of his congregation.

I know of a large moderate-to-conservative church in an eastern seaboard city, which hired a progressive pastor a few years ago; the results have been nearly disastrous. Once teeming with youth and boasting a Sunday attendance well over 1200, this number has since plunged nearly in half as the more conservative members have fled. The church is now struggling financially.

To those of you who happen to be in a successful traditionalist church: Do not be complacent! Your situation is only a fortunate accident waiting to be undone. If you are not on your vestry, or session, or board of elders, you should find the time to become more engaged. Sure, you are busy and don’t have time for this sort of thing; you have all consuming careers, and your plate is full raising your children. Left leaning activists are somewhat more likely to be childless, young, single, lightly employed–just the sort to have the time and energy to sit on and dominate committees.

Realize that progressive activists are seeking control anywhere they can get it. If you don’t have a seat on the search committee for your next pastor you may be disheartened by the results. You may come to realize too late the major betrayal that has occurred, as you start cringing at the “new thing the spirit is doing” at your church–at the heresy that is emanating from the pulpit and from your kids’ new Sunday school curriculum. You will find yourself gagging over the “breath of fresh air” touted by those who have been duped by the Evil One, and can’t recognize the stench of death.

We can no longer assume that the problem will be limited, or that things will get sorted out in the end. The head of the deacons at the aforementioned large church said, “sure he’s not a good pastor but we can wait him out.” The winners in these struggles will be the handful of LGBT activists who gained all the seats of power, and a few old people who just plan to be loyal to the end so they can be buried in the church yard. Everyone else will be worshipping in school gyms, joining different faith communities, or giving up on church altogether. Eventually the remnant congregation will be forced to sell the building, or it will decay to the point of being unsafe. Where your church used to be located you will someday drive past a church-shaped shell that has been transformed into a condominium complex, nightclub, or mosque.

We can no longer “play nice” or “just go along to get along”. The foe is ferocious, determined, and willing to stop at nothing to get their way. They’ll win or destroy a church trying. (Stepping aside and letting them win is no act of noble peacekeeping–destruction is also virtually assured if they win). To the left, victory must be total–there’s no room for compromise. Once they’ve won, there will not be any chance for a “do over” after the giving drops, and the majority of faithful Christians have left.

Ultimately, the victory is God’s, and those who tinkered with theology and wrecked the great churches will be called to account. We can and must pray for the churches that we love, and for the faithful who serve them. We should, of course, continue to hold in mind that the church is its people, not its wood and bricks. Our citizenship is a heavenly country where the buildings are everlasting. We know that if called to do so, then we may have to abandon these temporary structures to the enemy. But let’s not give up without a fight.

A Kenyan Muslim teacher who risked his life to shield Christians who were on a bus with him, has died from the gunshot wound he received.

Salah Farah was on a bus travelling through Mandera in Kenya when it was attacked by al-Shabab in December.
The attackers told the Muslims and Christians to split up but he was among Muslim passengers who refused.
A bullet hit Mr Farah and almost a month on, he died in hospital in the capital, Nairobi.

In interviews, when asked why he did this, he replied,
“people should live peacefully together”.
“We are brothers.
“It’s only the religion that is the difference, so I ask my brother Muslims to take care of the Christians so that the Christians also take care of us… and let us help one another and let us live together peacefully”.

Read more at BBC.

We laud his heroism. “Greater love hath no man than this…” (See John 15:13)

I was sad to read of a Detroit motorist who went out of life in a rather inglorious way. The 56 year old man died as his car flipped and partially ejected him through his sunroof; he was found to be not wearing pants and had been watching porn on his phone. Naturally this has reverberated around the web with poor taste puns like “this man was really beating traffic”. For reasons of respect, I omit the driver’s name. More can be found at various news outlets, including Detroit Free Press.

Aside from one obvious conclusion–don’t drive while watching porn–it struck me that for many, death is inglorious in a more cosmic sense. No matter how dignified our deaths may seem to fellow mortals, unless we are clothed with the white robes given by Christ, we will all be found pants-less and ashamed before the throne of God.

Our heartfelt prayers for the families of those who have died in the aftermath of the recent winter storm. As far as I can tell, the death toll from Winter Storm Jonas is at 48, according to a Weather Channel report.

(Weather Channel)

The sad tale of aborted fetuses for sale has taken another wicked turn. A grand jury acquitted Planned Parenthood and decided to go after the activists who exposed them.

HOUSTON — A grand jury here that was investigating accusations of misconduct against Planned Parenthood has instead indicted two abortion opponents who made undercover videos of the organization.

Read more: New York Times.

Apparently David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt, of the “Center for Medical Progress”, are being charged with crimes that amount to portraying a false identity to carry out their mission, and illegally buying body parts. The “Center for Medical Progress” issued a statement defending their actions, and pointing out that you can’t have a buyer without a seller:

The Center for Medical Progress uses the same undercover techniques that investigative journalists have used for decades in exercising our First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and of the press, and follows all applicable laws. We respect the processes of the Harris County District Attorney, and note that buying fetal tissue requires a seller as well. Planned Parenthood still cannot deny the admissions from their leadership about fetal organ sales captured on video for all the world to see. (Source: The Hill)

“Memento mori—remember death! These are important words. If we kept in mind that we will soon inevitably die, our lives would be completely different. If a person knows that he will die in a half hour, he certainly will not bother doing trivial, stupid, or, especially, bad things during this half hour. Perhaps you have half a century before you die—what makes this any different from a half hour?”
(Leo Tolstoy)

Does it Matter who Jesus was? (Or whether he was)?


I have decided to revisit that Time article from 2014 to which this prior post referred. The article in question was titled “The Search for Jesus: Inside the Scholars’ Debate.” After rehashing various revisionist positions on Jesus, the article drew the following conclusion:

This time of year, many people will conclude that those scholars are asking the wrong questions. They’ll answer as one reader did in the letters to the editor following the 1996 story: “It doesn’t matter who Jesus of Nazareth was or what he was,” he wrote. “What’s most important is the lessons he taught.” (You can find this online at Time Magazine’s website.)

To this we have to respond, “Hell, yes it matters!” And I stick by the expletive here for its literal meaning, which is an evocation of an unpleasant afterlife for those who are destined for perdition. It matters, because nothing less than eternity is at stake!

What, after all, were the lessons that Jesus taught? While a tiny bit of what Jesus said can be viewed as isolated nuggets of wisdom, a la Confucius, the bulk of his teaching was about himself. If a theme could be slapped on what is recorded about the teachings of Jesus, it would be something like “The Father has sent me; the Kingdom of God is at hand”. He spoke much about the nature of that kingdom (try to count the number of times he launched a parable with the words “the kingdom of Heaven is like…”). He spoke a lot about his own relationship to the Father (“I and the Father are one”, “whoever knows me knows the Father”–See John 10:30 and John 14:7). He spoke of his future glorification. He claimed to be the “Bread of Life,” and the “Good Shepherd.” He claimed to be the “Resurrection and the Life”. He called himself by the title “son of man”, which ancient Jews would have understood to be a messianic title (for example, see Daniel 7)

If Jesus didn’t exist, then you aren’t left with many teachings that should be taken all that seriously. Maybe you can go ahead and take away the so-called Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you”.

If he did exist (which in fact is the majority report among scholars), and taught all these things, but was wrong about himself, then you are left with a sad tale of a misguided man. You are left with a man who was wrong about himself, and about the Kingdom of God, and who was ultimately tortured and killed for no good reason. In this scenario the “good teacher” was wrong, and therefore isn’t all that “good” a teacher. You can still take away the Golden Rule as a bonus prize.

If Jesus really existed, and really was a “good teacher” who was right about the things he taught, then we need to treat his words with commensurate awe and reverence. We need to decide how to respond to “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”

In a move that can be characterized as resembling discipline, the majority of primates (archbishops) of the Anglican Communion today voted to suspend the U.S. Episcopal Church over its acceptance of gay marriage.

From BBC coverage in England:

Anglican leaders have barred a liberal US branch from decision-making for allowing same-sex marriage.
Anglicans have been divided on the issue since the US Episcopal Church ordained an openly gay bishop in 2003.
Leaders said the church’s stance was a “fundamental departure” from the faith of the majority in what is the world’s third largest Christian denomination.

…The decision – made at a four-day meeting of 39 Anglican primates in Canterbury – means the Church will be suspended from participating in the life and work of the Anglican communion, the BBC’s religious correspondent Carol Wyatt said.

…A statement from the primates at the meeting says that the church should “no longer represent us on ecumenical and interfaith bodies, should not be appointed or elected to an internal standing committee and that while participating in the internal bodies of the Anglican Communion, they will not take part in decision making on any issues pertaining to doctrine or polity”.

The Church leaders added that the majority of those gathered at the meeting – which was described as “really tough” – would “reaffirm” the teaching of scripture that “upholds marriage as between a man and a woman”

Read more at BBC.

The communique issued from this conference can be read here.


(Photo: Edward Burne-Jones – The Adoration of the Magi; in the public domain)

“Wise men still seek him” or so proclaims a popular slogan that appears on cards and facebook posts this time of year1 (well, more at Christmas, but I digress). Relieved I was therefore to see the headline of a recently discovered copy of a 2014 Time magazine that boldly proclaimed, “The Search for Jesus.” Aha, thought I, the search is on again. Another batch of wise men are on the move.

Reading the article naturally deflated me a bit–these men apparently weren’t of the same mind as those earlier magi. They seemed more “wise guys” than wise men. Like so many popular articles that purport to unearth or reexamine the “historical Jesus”, this Time Magazine piece merely rehashed the statements of Christianity’s fifth column, revisionist scholars like Rudolph Bultmann and the members of the “Jesus seminar.” The summary statement of the article went like this:

This time of year, many people will conclude that those scholars are asking the wrong questions. They’ll answer as one reader did in the letters to the editor following the 1996 story: “It doesn’t matter who Jesus of Nazareth was or what he was,” he wrote. “What’s most important is the lessons he taught.” (You can find this online at Time Magazine’s website.)

Perhaps what is meant by “wise” is the root of the issue. One quickly recalls the statement of St. Paul the apostle:
Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise.
For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness. And again, The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain.
(First Corinthians 3,Holy Bible, King James version).

Of course an ancient Hebrew proverb tells us The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding. (Proverbs 9:10, Holy Bible, King James Version). The “fear of the Lord” and “knowledge of the Holy” are roughly synonymous (if we recognize here an example of the Jewish poetic form known as “parallelism”). To know the holy God is to revere Him (“fear” here connotes more than dread or terror–it is fuller of the awe of the numinous, and reverence for that which is beyond our mortal coil). The reverence for God and knowledge of the Holy are things that precede and are prerequisites for attaining wisdom.

One might go a step further and say that the journey toward wisdom requires more than a mere “head knowledge” of the Holy. Recalling Jesus’ words to his disciples the evening before his death, it would appear that in some mysterious way an encounter with the Holy is required: “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.” This indicates that the beginning of wisdom is an encounter with (or the gift of/the activity of) the Holy Spirit of God.

In the end, the slogan should perhaps be reworded this way: “truly wise men still find him”, or better yet, “wise men still adore him”. The “wise guys”, those who know not the holy, who are wise in the world’s fashion, might find themselves forever seeking in vain.

May you have an encounter with the Holy. May you seek the one born to be “Messiah”, and find Him.

1The great Feast of Epiphany among other things celebrates the coming of the Magi to worship Jesus. Traditionally, this is commemorated on January 6, twelve days after Christmas.

All of us will come to a moment when we must face our own mortality. Few of us will have as spectacular a public forum in which to muse about it as the late singer David Bowie.

Just 2 days before his death he released his last album, “blackstar”.

In the video for his mournful new song “Lazarus,” David Bowie lies in what looks like a shabby hospital bed, bandages over his eyes, straining his frail body upward.

“Look up here, I’m in heaven,” he sings over the forlorn wail of a saxophone. “I’ve got scars that can’t be seen.”

Read more at CNN: David Bowie’s haunting final album hints at death.

Unfortunately, while his artistry and boldness can be admired, it appears that his musings about death did not coalesce into a coherent religious experience or something anticipating a beatific vision. In the end his last words to us amount to little more than a spiritual version of word salad:

The album’s ominous title track, almost 10 minutes long, contains references to death and resurrection.

“Something happened on the day he died / Spirit rose a meter and stepped aside / Somebody else took his place, and bravely cried / I’m a blackstar, I’m a blackstar,” he sings.

The video for the song — whose imagery includes a faceless monster, crucified scarecrows, a jeweled skull inside a spaceman’s helmet and Bowie singing with bandages (again) over his eyes — almost defies interpretation.

Well here’s genuine word of wisdom from Mr. Bowie:

“As you get older, the questions come down to about two or three. How long? And what do I do with the time I’ve got left?”(from Thought Catalog).

RIP David Bowie. Our thoughts go out to his heartbroken family, friends, and fans.