Friday, October 25, 2013

N. T. Wright: "The world in its present state is out of tune with God's ultimate intention"

"The world in its present state is out of tune with God’s ultimate intention, and there will be a great many things, some of them deeply woven into our imagination and personality, to which the only Christian response will be ‘no.’ Jesus told his followers that if they wanted to come after him they would have to deny themselves and take up their cross. The only way to find yourself, he said, is to lose yourself (a strikingly different agenda from today’s finding-out-who-I-really-am philosophies). From the very beginning, writers like Paul and John recognized that this isn’t just difficult, but actually impossible. We can’t do it by some kind of Herculean moral effort. The only way is by drawing strength from beyond ourselves, the strength of God’s Spirit, on the basis of our sharing of Jesus’ death and resurrection in baptism." 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Francis Hall: "The Church overlooks much sin and error"

"The Church overlooks much sin and error lest it cut off souls from the means of recovery to righteousness and truth; but such toleration does not imply sanction of what is tolerated. It often happens that opinions which are widely exploited in the Church are not less contrary to the Church's mind because tolerated; and the proof is found in what the Church continues to require to be recited in official formularies and in public ritual." 

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Jordan Senner: "Why Am I An Anglican - And What Difference Does It Make?"

I first came across a condensed version of this essay by Jordan Senner on The Anglican Digest blog.  It was originally published in the Spring 2013 issue of Via Media: The Newsletter of the Regent College Anglican Studies Program.  In it, Senner lays out eight ways he believes that "Anglicanism (at its best) faithfully expresses the fullness (breadth and depth) of the gospel."  I share it below because I believe it is an excellent essay that deserves wide circulation.

I am an Anglican because I believe Anglicanism (at its best) faithfully expresses the fullness (the breadth and depth) of the gospel. There are eight primary ways in which I believe this to be true: Anglicanism is biblical, historical, sacramental, liturgical, pastoral, episcopal, ecumenical, and global. I will briefly unpack each of these defining characteristics of Anglicanism.

First, I am an Anglican because it is biblical. I appreciate the great authority that Anglicanism gives to Scripture. Article 6 of the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion states that the Bible is the ultimate and final authority in all matters of faith, and nothing should be taught as doctrine or necessary for salvation that is not clearly taught in Scripture. Moreover, I believe that Anglicanism rightly places Scripture at the very center of all its ministries (e.g., liturgy), devotion (e.g., Book of Common Prayer), and foundational documents. It wants to immerse God’s people in the Scriptures.

Second, I am an Anglican because it is historical. I appreciate Anglicanism’s respect for the history and tradition of the Church. While its official conception took place in the mid-16th century, it still identifies itself with the catholic Church of the centuries prior to the Reformation. It seeks unity with the historic Church. As such, it receives and affirms the Apostle’s, Nicene, and Athanasian creeds as authoritative summaries of what Scripture teaches and what the Church believes. Also, it follows the traditional church calendar and draws wisdom from many of the great theologians of the past (e.g., Article 29 mentions Saint Augustine).

Third, I am an Anglican because it is sacramental. I appreciate the Anglican belief that God uses his visible, tangible creation (water, bread and wine) as a vessel to communicate his invisible, spiritual grace to people. I believe that the Anglican emphasis on Word and Sacrament together is healthy and edifying for the Church.

Fourth, I am an Anglican because it is liturgical. I appreciate the depth and breadth of the liturgical worship. It immerses people in many important truths of the gospel in various ways: confession of sin and absolution; confession of faith through reciting the creed and reading Scripture; preaching the Word and receiving the Sacrament; gathering for worship and sending on mission; prayer. Moreover, I believe that the liturgy helpfully engages the whole person – body and soul – in communal worship.

Fifth, I am an Anglican because it is pastoral. I appreciate the Anglican emphasis on discipleship and spiritual formation. Historically, it has taken catechism and confirmation seriously as an essential part of discipleship. Furthermore, the Book of Common Prayer provides people with helpful structures and resources for developing spiritual disciplines: prayer (morning, midday, and evening) and Scripture reading (lectionary). The Book of Common Prayer also provides pastors and laity with a diversity of prayers for different situations and spheres of life. I deeply appreciate the Anglican desire to ensconce all of life (family, work, city, church) with prayer and Scripture.

Sixth, I am an Anglican because it is episcopal. I appreciate the Anglican desire to express and maintain visible unity. It is unique among most Protestant denominations in that it believes the visible unity of the Church is important. Additionally, I believe that the episcopal structure of the Anglican church is pastorally wise. At its best, it allows parishes to support one another in gospel ministry, and it guards against personality cults and false doctrine by providing a network of accountability.

Seventh, I am an Anglican because it is ecumenical. I appreciate the Anglican belief that it is not the only true Church, but that it is part of a much larger communion that is the one, holy, apostolic, catholic Church. As such, it seeks unity of faith and mission with churches of all denominations. It seeks to work with all those who are participating in the work of the gospel.

Eighth, I am an Anglican because it is global. I appreciate the fact that Anglicanism is a global communion. Although it was conceived in England, its identity has grown to include many nations and diverse cultures. It is a worldwide communion that transcends national, cultural, and linguistic boundaries, while embracing simultaneously the diversity of worship in its various locations (see Article 34).

As to the question, ‘What difference does it make?’. All of the above characteristics of Anglicanism shape the form and content of pastoral ministry, corporate worship, and discipleship. Instead of focusing primarily on administrative and managerial tasks, pastoral ministry should focus on preaching and teaching the Scriptures, personally engaging with God and helping others engage with God through prayer, and building up the Church through the faithful and frequent celebration of the sacraments. Instead of focusing primarily on personal feelings and needs, corporate worship should be rooted in a long liturgical tradition of Scripture reading, prayer, song, and sacrament. Corporate worship should focus on God and enable each member of the congregation to see their individual and corporate life in the context of the gospel. Even more, corporate worship should lead people into a deeper communion with God and with each other. Instead of focusing solely on personal conversion by grace through faith, discipleship should also focus on personal transformation by grace through faith within the context of the Church. Discipleship should be viewed as a communal ministry that focuses on learning to read Scripture, pray, love people, and participate in God’s mission in the world. Discipleship will be deeply person, but not individualistic; it will involve every aspect of a person’s life – social, professional, familial, political, emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual.

Ultimately, I am an Anglican because I believe that the Anglican tradition faithfully expresses the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and thereby gives a God-centered, Scripture-saturated, prayer-immersed shape to all pastoral ministry, corporate worship, and discipleship.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Oliver Chase Quick on "the essential newness of the Christian revelation"

The Christian Creed sets before us as the object of our faith nothing less than the unsearchable love of God.  It affirms that that love was once for all revealed in Jesus, who died in every circumstance of shame and horror, and rose again for men.  And therefore it assures us at the same time that no experience, however terrible or repugnant, can be such that through it no fresh discovery of God's love is possible for one who has God's Spirit in his heart.  Here then is the gospel which provides the truly permanent object of faith.

Nineteen hundred years ago that gospel itself was new in time.  Then to say, "I believe in God the Father and in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord" was indeed a new discovery, the discovery of a new world.  St. Paul writes at times as one bewildered by the novelty of the one new thing which the clever Athenians could neither tell nor hear, the thing which had shown the weakness of God to be stronger, and the foolishness of God to be wiser, than every work of man's hand and thought of man's brain.  But to-day, what we have to prove in thought and life is this, that the essential newness of the Christian revelation is not a temporal newness, which, as the centuries pass, passes itself into old age.  It is as true now, as it was when the Epistle to the Hebrews was written, that "that which waxeth old is near to vanishing away".  We believe in Christianity not because it is old but because it still is new.  It is the gospel of an ageless truth of which ever fresh discoveries are to be made; and in making them our faith itself must live.  Christ's call to union with himself through sacrifice will bring as fresh a revelation when the earth is becoming uninhabitable by the exhaustion of the sun, as it did when Mary cried "Rabboni" and Paul was blinded by the light on the Damascus road.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Richard Hays Summarizes the Gospel

"The God of Israel, the creator of the world, has acted (astoundingly) to rescue a lost and broken world through the death and resurrection of Jesus; the full scope of that rescue is not yet apparent, but God has created a community of witnesses to this good news, the church. While awaiting the grand conclusion of the story, the church, empowered by the Holy Spirit, is called to reenact the loving obedience of Jesus Christ and thus to serve as a sign of God’s redemptive purposes for the world."

h/t Fr. Matt Gunter at Into the Expectation