Faith: June 2005 Archives

Penitent Blogger has an update on the complaint (noted here a few days ago) by a liberal Episcopal (Episcopal Church, USA) parish's rector about a nearby conservative, continuing Episcopal (United Episcopal Church of North America) parish referring to itself as Episcopal. The liberal rector, Lowell Grisham of St. Paul's Episcopal Church (ECUSA) in Fayetteville, Arkansas, replied to Fr. Leo Michael of St. Gabriel's Episcopal Church (UECNA) in Springdale, and said that St. Gabriel's use of the name "Episcopal" was no different than St. Paul's calling itself "Catholic":

Your argument is the same one I might make should I say that the Roman Catholic Church violated the "truth once delivered to the saints" with its pope and other accretions, and that my church is the true Catholic church. So, from now on, I would advertise my church as St. Paul's Catholic Church or even St. Paul's Roman Catholic Church. How false and confusing that would be to Catholics moving into NW Arkansas. It would be dishonest of me.

That would be dishonest, but some might call it even more dishonest for a denomination like the ECUSA to continue to call itself Episcopal when it rejects Anglicanism's doctrinal standards and traditions and seems bound to reinvent itself as Unitarianism with nicer vestments.

You can read Fr. Leo's gracious reply on his blog here.

(Also, I enjoyed Penitent Blogger's ideas for updating notations in the hymnal to encourage livelier singing. Examples include "Twice as fast as you think appropriate," "Not using your inside voice," and "In the voice of Elmer Fudd.")

The rector of St. Gabriel's United Episcopal Church in Springdale, Arkansas, which is running a widely-supported and effective relief effort for those in southern India affected by last fall's tsunami, has been asked by the rector of St. Paul's, the largest Episcopal Church USA parish in nearby Fayetteville, to stop calling St. Gabriel's an Episcopal church. After a bit of buttering up, he writes:

I have one request, however. When you identify your churches in public venues (signs, newspapers, etc.), would it be possible for you to be attentive to identifying your denominational affiliation with the United Episcopal Church of North America. It can be a source of confusion if you call yourself "St. Gabriel's Episcopal Church." I've had a couple of parishioners mention the confusion to me.

Matt of Overtaken by Events, a parishoner of St. Gabriel's, notes that the e-mail arrived a couple of days after the leadership of St. Paul's announced plans to move ahead toward performing blessings of same-sex relationships. Matt asks, "Is there unrest in the pews of St Paul's?" I'll bet the rector of the liberal congregation is concerned that his older, more conservative parishoners will leave and take their money with them if they know that there is another Episcopal Church in the area, one that is faithful to the truth.

Fr. Leo Michael, the rector of St. Gabriel's, has posted the e-mail and his reply on his blog.

Penitent Blogger, another St. Gabriel's parishoner, has more about the liberal parish's process of dialogue on same-sex blessings, which is set up to lead inevitably to approval. Her description of how the process works is spot on, especially this bit: "It's just a matter of time before this so-called 'vestry-led congregational process' leads to the actual approval of same-sex blessings, and the term used to inform the community of this inevitable decision will neccessarily contain flowery, politically-correct, multi-syllabic words in excess of ten per sentence, instead of just coming out and saying 'screw you, we did it anyway.'" She thinks St. Paul's should change its name to "Saul's Sociopalian Entity, proudly undermining 2,000 years of Scripture, history and tradition, whether you like it or not."

It's great to see that Penitent Blogger is back to blogging after a month or so of working on other projects. In her previous entry, she takes apart St. Paul's rector Rev. Lowell Grisham's recent op-ed attempt to expound a biblical justification for abortion. I love her concluding remark: "Fortunately, I'm not inclined to take seriously the opinions of a priest who hosts labyrinth walks in celebration of the full moon at what is supposed to be a Christian church."

One more word of praise -- Overtaken by Events and Penitent Blogger are among the few blogs on my blogroll which are directly pinging BlogRolling.com so they show up as "recently updated" when they've recently updated. That means that more people will notice that they have new content and will go to read it. If you're a Movable Type user, it's an easy thing to fix, and if you use Blogger, there's a simple manual procedure. Click here for more information on the problem and the workaround.

Friesen in my tracks

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Also seen in that Nebraska truck stop, on a rack of Christian books: The 25th anniversary edition of Decision Making and the Will of God, by Garry Friesen and Robin Maxson. I first read this book about 10 years ago and about 15 years too late for me -- after most of my major life decisions had been made -- but not too late to help shape my children's understanding of the freedom and responsibility they will have to choose among the many options they'll be presented with.

The thrust of the first part of the book is that the "traditional view" (a view that appears to trace back to the 19th century Keswick movement) of making life decisions is unbiblical. The idea you are likely to encounter in a church youth group or in a campus ministry is that God has a perfect will for your life -- where to go to college, what career to pursue, whom to marry. Your job is to figure it out, and if you guess wrong, you will miss out on the abundant life God desires for you (except that He apparently doesn't desire it for you enough to tell you how to find it).

As an alternative, Friesen looks at what the Scriptures say about decision-making and summarizes what he finds with the name "the way of wisdom." Where God gives us a specific command in Scripture, we're to obey it. Beyond that we have the freedom and responsibility to make choices in accordance with Biblical principles, trusting that God will sovereignly work through those choices to accomplish His purposes.

In the new edition, the section describing the traditional view is significantly reduced, and more space is given to presenting the Biblical view and how it can be applied in specific decision-making situations. The back of the book has a list of Frequently-Asked Questions raised in the 25 years since its first edition -- the FAQ list refers the reader back to specific chapters to read the answers. There's also a "study guide" -- discussion questions for each chapter.

You can read a review of the 1980 edition here on the 9 Marks website. Can't seem to find a detailed review of the new edition on the web.

UPDATE (2006/04/18): Garry Friesen has a section of his website devoted to the new edition of the Decision Making and the Will of God. The website has the forward, intro, first two chapters, and the opening section of the original edition. There are answers to frequently-asked questions and reviews by Friesen of over 30 other books on the topic of life decisions. Very helpful and informative.

George Grant has an interesting biographical sketch of Christopher Wren, the architect of the rebuilding of London following the Great Fire. He was a professor of astronomy at Oxford and designed his first building at the age of 31. Three years later he was overseeing the rebuilding of St. Paul's Cathedral, outwitting the committee that was overseeing his work. Grant's piece also touches on how Wren's theology affected the architecture of St. Paul's.

Dory of Wittenberg Gate has posted the latest entry in the series on dealing with controlling personalities in the church. (That entry has links to the first three entries.) In an earlier entry, she also has links to a couple of resources that may help those recovering from spiritually abusive situations -- a sermon on spiritual exhaustion and a review of Martin Lloyd-Jones's book Spiritual Depression.

Kenneth Taylor, RIP

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Oh, the joys of those who do not follow evil men's advice, who do not hang around with sinners, scoffing at the things of God: But they delight in doing everything God wants them to, and day and night are always meditating on his laws and thinking about ways to follow him more closely. They are like trees along a river bank bearing luscious fruit each season without fail. Their leaves shall never wither, and all they do shall prosper.

-- Psalm 1:1-3, The Living Bible

Kenneth Taylor, who published his paraphrase of Scripture as The Living Bible, passed away last week.

The Living Bible was the first Bible I really read for myself. My parents gave me a copy when I was eight -- an Easter gift if I remember correctly. When our VBS class memorized John 14:1-6, I was the oddball who memorized the LB version -- everyone else recited the King James. Up until I received a Scofield Study Bible in high school (KJV with dispensational premillenialist study notes), The Living Bible was how I got to know God's Word.

Christianity Today has posted several articles in tribute to Taylor: an obituary, an interview from 1979, and a review of his 1992 autobiography.

From that 1979 interview, some insight into Taylor's motivations for paraphrasing Scripture:

The children were one of the chief inspirations for producing the Living Bible. Our family devotions were tough going because of the difficulty we had understanding the King James Version, which we were then using, or the Revised Standard Version, which we used later. All too often I would ask questions to be sure the children understood, and they would shrug their shoulders葉hey didn't know what the passage was talking about. So I would explain it. I would paraphrase it for them and give them the thought. It suddenly occurred to me one afternoon that I should write out the reading for that evening thought by thought, rather than doing it on the spot during our devotional time. So I did, and read the chapter to the family that evening with exciting results葉hey knew the answers to all the questions I asked!

You'll find a more personal tribute to Taylor at Baylyblog, starting here. Tim Bayly is Taylor's son-in-law. (We all got acquainted with Tim and his brother David as they kept vigil outside Terri Schiavo's hospice in Pinellas Park, Florida, and reported their observations on their blog, back in March.)

For whatever God says to us is full of living power: it is sharper than the sharpest dagger, cutting swift and deep into our innermost thoughts and desires with all their parts, exposing us for what we really are. -- Hebrews 4:12, The Living Bible

A faithful few links

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I'm not going to be doing any writing of my own tonight, but here are a few links on faith, theology, etc., for your Sunday edification:

  • Evangelical Outpost has the commencement speech Neil Postman never delivered (but you're welcome to give it, if you ever get the chance). Graduates, will you align yourselves with the Athenians or the Visigoths?
  • Michael Spencer, the Internet Monk, has an essay on assurance of salvation, entitled "On Faith's Crumbling Edge: Restoring The Uprooted Assurance Of The Ordinary Christian." From my years in the Southern Baptist Convention, I can affirm his observation that although the denomination professes belief in the security of the believer, it is home to many believers who are filled with doubts about their standing with God. I saw plenty of people who "got saved" again because they weren't sure they really meant it the first time. (There's a typo in the piece that made me laugh -- an errant "r" turns Lifeway, the publishing/bookselling arm of the SBC, into Lifewary, which is probably true of a lot of the tender consciences that Spencer writes about in this essay.)
  • Speaking of the SBC, Southern Baptist Seminary president and powerhouse Al Mohler turns out a thoughtful, in-depth essay every single day on subjects moral, theological, and political. His May 31 column is a review of Paige Patterson's new book on the reformation within the SBC in the '80s. The denomination nearly followed every other large Protestant body in the US into relativism, but thanks to a dedicated group of laymen and pastors, the SBC is firmly committed to the gospel of Christ and the truth of Scripture. That victory required both prayer and politicking. But even if you don't care about the history of the Southern Baptist Convention, you will care about the other topics -- sanctity of life, sanctity of marriage, deliberate childlessness -- that he has written on in the last few days.
  • In response to native Tulsan Philip Johnson's piece on Quick-and-Dirty Calvinism, Marsupial Mom owns up to her nascent Calvinism, and finds that real-life Calvinism is easier to take than the Internet variety. (She also mentions having been involved in the "Toronto Blessing" movement. To put that in Internet terminology, that's the Church of ROTFLMAO.)
  • Jacob Hantla, also responding to "Quick-and-Dirty Calvinism", said his pastor compared him to Barney Fife during his early enthusiastic days as a Five-Pointer. "At the discovery of the most humbling message around, I became boastful, proud, and arrogant, even harsh." He talks about the mentors and the books that helped him out of what I've heard called "the cage period" -- the period when new Calvinists should be locked up so as not to harm themselves or others by beating people over the head with the new understanding they've acquired.
  • Jacob also enthusiastically recommends John Piper's sermons on "Sex and the Supremacy of Christ," the topic of 2004's Desiring God Ministries national conference.
  • Bowden McElroy has some thoughts on Henry Cloud's Christianity Today article "Dating is Not about Marriage". Before anyone gets their knickers in a twist, what Cloud describes sounds like "Crusade Dating" to me -- conversation over lunch or dinner, no promise or expectation of long-term commitment, and no physical contact beyond a wee hug at the end of the evening -- just time to get to know another person and sharpen one's own social skills. (We called it "Crusade Dating" because that's how we were taught to date in Campus Crusade for Christ in college.)

Have a blessed Sunday. Attend church!

Dead Man Blogging hat trick

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Robert Williams latest three entries on Dead Man Blogging are all excellent essays:

  1. God's Sovereignty Over Pharaoh: How God hardened Pharoah's heart so as to deliver Israel in a way that brought great glory to Himself, to make His name great among the nations. Williams notes that Pharoah let Israel go, and that might have been the end of the story, but God hardens Pharoah's heart, and he continues to pursue Israel all the way to and into the Red Sea.
  2. Appeal to Consequences is no way to Rightly Handle the Bible: You can't make a valid argument against a theological assertion based on the fact that you don't like the conclusions to which it leads you.
  3. Losing My Religion: Williams outlines his faith journey over the last 10 years from Arminian dispensationalist to Calvinist, and it resembles mine in many ways -- growing up in a small Southern Baptist congregation, Campus Crusade in college, a brief time in a Bible Church, then settling in a PCA congregation, and in the process coming to a very different understanding of what it means to live the Christian life:
    I知 trying to understand what a Christian life ought to look like. I知 losing my Gnostic religion. I知 losing my 澱usyness is godliness religion. I知 understanding godly living and Christian service to be in the small things. I don稚 have to light a fire and start a ministry that will change the world. If I pursue a close walk with God, lead my family, look to my wife痴 sanctification, raise my children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, work diligently and enjoy the work itself as well as the fruit of my labor, spend time with a very few good friends, go to worship regularly at my church, serve a little bit at my church (e.g., by teaching theology), take care of my extended family and my church family, I知 full. There痴 not a lot of time to do much else. And that痴 OK. No, it痴 more than OK. It痴 good.

    Robert from 10 years ago might not like the Robert of today, but that痴 his loss.

    Three entries well worth your time and pondering.

Phil Johnson is well known to admirers of the 19th century English Baptist evangelist Charles Spurgeon and to searchers for online Christian history and theology resources. Starting in the early days of the web, Phil has developed an extensive online archive of Spurgeon's sermons and writings. "Next door" to the Spurgeon archive is the Hall of Church History -- 14 pages of annotated links to collections of primary texts, timelines, and history, including Early Church Fathers, Medieval theologians, Reformers and Counter-Reformers, Puritans, revivialists, and even heretics. Phil has also put together an annotated collection of links to theology resources on the web -- not just links to the good stuff, but links to bad, really bad, and really, really bad theology.

Phil has just started blogging, and he calls his blog PyroManiac. As you might expect, the blog is mostly about theology -- such as this entry on "ugly Calvinism" -- but one of his first entries is about the eccentric early 20th century French composer Erik Satie. It includes a link to a MIDI version of Satie's most famous composition (Gymnopedie No. 1). The entry also includes a few of Satie's eccentricities, such as the artist's account of his daily regimen:

I eat only food that is white: eggs, sugar, shredded bones; fat from dead animals; veal, salt, coconuts, chicken cooked in white water; mouldy fruit, rice, turnips; camphorated sausage, pasta, cheese (white varieties), cotton salad, and certain kinds of fish (minus their skins). I boil my wine and drink it cold mixed with juice from the fuchsia. I have a good appetite but never talk while eating for fear of strangling myself. ...

Once every hour a servant takes my temperature and gives me another.

I've added Phil to the blogroll at right. Check out his blog, and be sure to check out the wonderful collection of online resources he has developed.

It's one of the wonders of the Internet that you can learn about a new blogger in your own backyard by reading a blog thousands of miles away.

I'm looking through referrers to my website and check out a site that sent me a visitor. Carla Rolfe is a Reformed (Sovereign Grace) Baptist blogger and mother of seven homeschooled kids in Ontario, Canada. In her latest entry, she announces:

Dennis from Grace and Truth Books (hands down, THE best bookstore in the universe) is now blogging here. Go say hello to Dennis, then go buy a book from his store, you値l be blessed senseless.

Dennis is Dennis Gunderson, pastor of Grace Bible Church here in Tulsa. I met him many years ago through mutual friends, David and Susan Pedrick Simpson. (Susan and I were high school classmates.)

Dennis's online bookstore features works by John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, and the English Puritans, books from Banner of Truth and Soli Deo Gloria publishers. Grace and Truth is also a publishing house, focusing on devotional and educational material for families.

His first blog entry is an excerpt from his eulogy for his best friend, John Bower, who died suddenly three weeks ago:

I just never knew anyone less easily satisfied when it came to getting answers to his questions about God! John did not tolerate shallow answers! Surface. Superficial. Half-baked. Now, as for you, if you could settle for that, he would smile that incredible smile at you, of amazement at how you could settle so little, but he had to have more than that. He was just driven to understand the truth as deeply as God would allow a man to know it this side of heaven.

And guess what? Now he痴 satisfied. Can you imagine John Bower, satisfied? Completely satisfied with his knowledge of God?!? But it痴 true: he is! John has no more questions! No more battles to fight, no more dragons to slay; no more controversies to settle; no more 澱ut what about this? I think that痴 what makes me happiest for John right now: John has all he wants. He is satisfied with the life he has eternal life which means not just endless time, but a quality of life which is boundless. And John is satisfied with the light he is given.

A worthy beginning to your blog, Dennis. Welcome to the blogosphere.

Anglican Books of Homilies

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A wonder of the Internet is that you can recall something that had puzzled you or that you had wondered about years earlier, but could never find an answer for at the time, but now, with about a minute's worth of Googling, you have what you were looking for. That happened to me a few minutes ago.

The Thirty-Nine Articles, the statement of faith adopted by the Church of England in 1563, has an article devoted to something called the Second Book of Homilies -- a book of sermons commended for reading in the churches -- and in another article makes specific mention of a homily on justification.

For some reason I thought of that again today, and sure enough the two Books of Homilies are available on the web. It appears that the intent of publishing these books was to ensure that each parish could provide its parishoners with a basic education in doctrine (e.g. "Of the salvation of all mankind") and in living the Christian life (e.g. "Against idleness").

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Faith category from June 2005.

Faith: May 2005 is the previous archive.

Faith: July 2005 is the next archive.

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