A New Reformation (1)

New-Reformation-GlassWhy We Need One

The Original Reformation

Before I address a new Reformation, a summary of the religious and social context for the original Reformation is necessary.  Here is the Encyclopedia Britannica’s.

The world of the late medieval Roman Catholic Church from which the 16th-century reformers emerged was a complex one. Over the centuries the church, particularly in the office of the papacy, had become deeply involved in the political life of western Europe. The resulting intrigues and political manipulations, combined with the church’s increasing power and wealth, contributed to the bankrupting of the church as a spiritual force. Abuses such as the sale of indulgences (or spiritual privileges) by the clergy and other charges of corruption undermined the church’s spiritual authority.

The Current Church Crisis

When I survey the political-spiritual situation in the Western Church today similarities with the 16th century Reformation are obvious.  Although the current Church has nowhere near the practical political power as did the medieval Roman Catholic, its subservience to secular political power is undeniable.  Anyone who has been following this blog will have been exposed to many examples within context of the PCUSA.  However, were I a member of the Episodical, Congregational, Methodist, or Evangelical Lutheran Church (among other Mainline denominations) the evidence for secular politics’ dominance would be of similar weight.

In the age of Trump we see the more conservative Evangelical churches embracing a man who just a decade ago would almost certainly have been rejected.  While I make no defense of President Trump’s morals, it takes a mountain of chutzpah for progressive Christians to criticize the politicization of Christianity by Evangelical leaders.  Some progressive Christians, upon seeing their strategy turned back on themselves, are beginning to recognize the danger of a Christianity captured by human ideology.  However, their voices are drowned out in the maelstrom of SJW Tweets and mob action.

This crisis is certainly not limited to the Protestant churches.  The positions of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on health care, poverty programs, human conflict, environmental policy and immigration are almost as inseparable from secular progressive cant as are those of the Mainline denominations.  However, they remain at odds with progressivism on abortion and religious freedom.  Thus the political situation is less certain.

However, it is in the area of sexual morality that the Catholic Church is experiencing an existential crisis.  As state Attorney Generals have become more aggressive in pursuing sexually deviant Catholic clergy it has become undeniable that there has been a longstanding, wide and deep coverup of pederasty.  This scandal directly involves Catholic leaders at the top of the hierarchy.  Potentially even Pope Francis has been credibly implicated in the protection of criminal clergy to advance the coverup.  Unless the Catholic Church fundamentally reforms we could be heading for a crisis on the order of the Protestant Reformation.

At the core of all these developments is a loss of spiritual authority that can be traced back to a substitution of human ideology for religious faith.  It appears that at some time in the last century many in the Christian clergy and laity concluded that, in effect, “God is indeed dead.”  However, they also realized that the institutional church yet wielded great moral power that could be put to “good” use.  When they looked around for a new moral compass they settled on secular progressive ideology.  This development is well summarized in An Anxious Age: The Post-Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of America by Joseph Bottum.

Formed in the victory of civil rights activism, a new version of the social gospel movement became the default theology of church bureaucrats in the Mainline.  The churches “increasingly turned their attention to the drafting of social statements on a variety of contemporary problems,” as the religious historian Peter J. Thuesen has noted, and their statements “revealed a shared opinion among Mainline executives that the churches’ primary public role was social advocacy.”

As has been noted the Catholic Church is far down this path as well.  One can only guess as to where the more conservative Protestant churches are heading, though the polar opposite of the progressive denominations seems to be most likely.

As I recently wrote:

However, regardless of if we find ourselves in the Mainline Protestant, Catholic, Evangelical, Orthodox or Nondenominational branches we must seriously consider if our Christian testimony has been so corrupted by the poison of secular cults that it has been fundamentally compromised. My thought is that something akin to a new Reformation will be required for the Church to rise to this challenge. But, not my will be done, rather His.

I believe that only something on the order of a New Reformation has the power to extract the Western Christian Church from its current crisis.  Too many denominations and leaders have been corrupted by secular political power for anything less to do.

This isn’t a new idea.  But if my prayer can add to those of others seeking God’s intervention then let me not remain silent.

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Looking Back on 2018 and a Preview of Early 2019

Past-Future

Looking Back on 2018

As 2018 winds down so too will my blogging output.  This year I have focused on a fair number of topics, including:

Clearly 2018 was a year in which I strayed further from the core theological and denominational topics that dominated previous years.

A Preview of Early 2019

In a recent discussion with a friend he pointed out that religion, politics and economics are inextricably linked together.  While I definitely agree with this point, I also have grave concerns given the experience of Postmodern Christianity, Progressive politics and Socialist economics in the PCUSA.  Some readers may assume that I seek a combination of orthodox Reformed Christianity, Conservative politics and Capitalist economics as the preferred alternative.

Not so, for Christianity does not exist as an adjunct to any political or economic ideology. Nor is Christianity the justification for human sourced ideologies.  No, Christianity is about the saving of our sinful souls by he Triune God.  That eternal purpose transcends all human thought or action.  However, it also informs human thought and action in this fallen world.

I have come to believe that Western Christianity has failed in its attempt to mix the sacred and profane into a new theology that is better suited to the modern (or postmodern) world.  Perhaps this will be a fruitful area of discussion in the new year.

I’m also concerned that our civic discussion has veered way too far in the direction of emotion and intentions at the expense of logic and data.  I’m also thinking about this issue as we move into the new year.

Of course there is no way to predict what events or ideas will bubble to the surface in 2019 that will drive the direction of this blog.  These are dangerous, fraught times through which we are passing. We must keep our eyes fixed on Christ and our trust in God’s providential care if we hope to pass through with our faith intact.

It’s my prayer that this blog will in some small way bring blessing and hope to a dark world by proclaiming that Christ is Lord while seeking to understand how this eternal salvation translates into our brief lives here.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wishing you and yours a blessed time of giving thanks to our Great God!

Screenshot-2016-11-23-at-9.48.29-PMPresident Abraham Lincoln proclaims a Day of Thanksgiving to God Almighty.

Washington, D.C.
October 3, 1863

By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.

In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union.

Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People.

I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln

William H. Seward,
Secretary of State

Amen.

Stinging Satire from the Babylon Bee (2)

Screen Shot 2018-11-10 at 8.19.23 PMThat’s Not Funny! Hmm…Maybe it Is.

While I was reading one of their “articles” my eye caught this link (see image on right).  Given that my blog is centered on orthodox Reformed theology the “article’s” content hit a bit too close to home for comfort.  To my shock and dismay I initially responded in a manner reminiscent of radical Feminists: flukeR1“That’s not funny!”  But then I thought a bit more and concluded that yes, there are indeed Calvinists who get way too wrapped up in their sense of holding a superior theology.  Heck, chances are that I’ve made people feel that way!

I also recalled a very sobering book titled: Predestination: The American Career of a Contentious Doctrine by Peter J. Thuesen.  It tells the story of how Reformed theologians discredited each other and the doctrine they claimed to love by delving into unknowable details of how it actually works in God’s mind.  Although they all claimed to be Calvinists, they all managed to overlook or ignore his wise advice on this difficult doctrine.

First, then, let them remember that when they inquire into predestination, they penetrate the inmost recesses of Divine wisdom, where the careless and confident intruder will obtain no satisfaction to his curiosity, but will enter a labyrinth from which he will find no way to depart. For it is unreasonable that man should scrutinize with impunity those things which the Lord has determined to be hidden in himself; and investigate, even from eternity, that sublimity of wisdom which God would have us to adore and not comprehend, to promote our admiration of His glory. The secrets of His will which He determined to reveal to us, He discovers in His word; and these are all that He foresaw would concern us or conduce to our advantage.

So, yes, we can take ourselves far too seriously.  It’s not that I doubt that Reformed theology is the closest thing I know to Biblical truth.  Rather, I can’t forget how I am also caught up in the fallen human condition, thus being capable of folly and failure just like everyone else.  One aspect of that humility is recognizing in our critics important aspects of truth, and in our mockers the same, with a bit of humor thrown in for good measure.

Screen Shot 2018-11-10 at 8.46.53 PMIt turns out that the Bee can also make good fun at the expense of Calvinism’s opponent, Arminianism.  The content is hilarious:

Carter calls the bridge a compassionate act of mercy on his part, freely offering everyone the chance to cross the bridge, if they can just muster up enough faith to step on the gas and launch themselves the remaining few hundred feet over the valley.

“We couldn’t go all the way across—that would be violating your free will, not giving you the chance to garner enough faith to cross on your own merits,” he said.

But the final punch line sticks it to us Calvinists again.

A competing Calvinist contractor also opened a bridge downstream: one that crosses the entire river, but isn’t open to the public.

That’s funny!

I’m currently working on an ebook titled God’s Acts of Providence to be published early next year.  It’s a serious and (I hope) compelling explanation and defense of Reformed Theology in the general area of Predestination.  It’s possible that as my finger hovers above the “publish” button I’ll break into a cold sweat wondering if the Bees will notice and respond.  If so, only my utter confidence in God’s providential purposes will give me the strength to press.

Christian Hymns (2)

Hymn-Mighty-FortressA Mighty Fortress is Our God

… by Martin Luther, c. 1529.

The great Reformer Martin Luther didn’t write these lyrics as a theoretical exercise.  For Luther had been excommunicated by the Catholic Church in 1521.  The typical punishment for this offense was to be burned at the stake.  Luther thus lived under the most practical threat of death, which was only prevented by the protection of local rulers.

The lyrics are inspired by Psalm 46.  Additional background for the hymn can be found here, and a performance here by Chris Rice.

1

A mighty Fortress is our God,

A Bulwark never failing;

Our Helper He amid the flood

Of mortal ills prevailing:

For still our ancient foe

Doth seek to work us woe;

His craft and power are great,

And, armed with cruel hate,

On earth is not his equal.

The “flood of mortal ills” rolls on and on.  Yes, in some places and times it appears to ebb, but it always returns with terrible force.  We are never free from the ills of this mortal life, be they physical, emotional, social or cultural.  Sin infests everything that we think, and do.

Yet, Luther sees that there is an evil power that exacerbates our fallen state.  It sees in our weaknesses an opportunity to achieve ends far worse than we could attain on our own.  This is also what the Apostle Paul saw when he spoke of “the powers of this dark world” and “the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12b).

2

Did we in our own strength confide,

Our striving would be losing;

Were not the right Man on our side,

The Man of God’s own choosing:

Dost ask who that may be?

Christ Jesus, it is He;

Lord Sabaoth His Name,

From age to age the same,

And He must win the battle.

No man can stand against this spiritual force of evil.  In our fallen state we are unable to recognize evil and unwilling to oppose it.  It is only because of Jesus Christ’s intervention on our behalf that the truth of our need can be seen.  And, it is only by the saving act of Christ that we can be redeemed and renewed so as to cooperate in the battle against the evil that lives within us and in the world around us.  Yes, we cooperate because we are “in Christ.”  But it is Christ and Christ alone who “must win the battle.”

3

And though this world, with devils filled,

Should threaten to undo us,

We will not fear, for God hath willed

His truth to triumph through us:

The Prince of Darkness grim,

We tremble not for him;

His rage we can endure,

For lo! his doom is sure,

One little word shall fell him.

If Christ is on our side then we need not fear anyone or anything.  For, it is not our own will but the will of God Himself that truth will triumph through us.

The people who see only worldly power are skilled and relentless about obtaining it.  They thus appear to hold all the levers of worldly power, and have no qualms about using them with “cruel hate.”  But they have utterly failed to reckon with the one God — Father, Son and Holy Spirit — Who yet reigns.  Although their evil is bent to serve His purposes, yet when His justice arrives they will be utterly devastated.  Their power is so insubstantial that “one little word” fells them.

4

That word above all earthly powers,

No thanks to them, abideth;

The Spirit and the gifts are ours

Through Him who with us sideth:

Let goods and kindred go,

This mortal life also;

The body they may kill:

God’s truth abideth still,

His Kingdom is forever.

That Word is The Word, Jesus Christ.  Yes, the powers of evil may successfully conspire to take our families, goods and even our very lives from us.  But any victory by evil is only a temporary way station on the road to God’s ultimate truth and justice.  The “Spirit and the gifts” from God provide all that we need to fight on until the end of this mortal life is attained.  But for the Christian that end is actually the beginning of life eternal, lived in God’s perfect truth and worshiping in His Kingdom forever.

Amen

Christian Hymns (1)

Hymn-Fathers-World

This is My Father’s World

… by Maltbie D. Babcock, 1901.

“This is My Father’s World” has the honor of being the first hymn in this series.  I give it this honor not because it contains the greatest theological insight, nor because it packs the greatest emotional wallop.  Rather, it’s because of the pure simplicity of thought placed within a beautiful tune.  And, because of its surprising shift between verses two and three that suddenly contrasts the beauty of God’s creation with the fallen state of our existence within context of God’s providence.  It is the most emotionally encouraging hymn ever written.

Additional background on the hymn can be found here and a beautiful rendition here (by Fernando Ortega).

1

This is my Father’s world,

And to my listening ears

All nature sings, and round me rings

The music of the spheres.

This is my Father’s world:

I rest me in the thought

Of rocks and trees, of skies and seas–

His hand the wonders wrought.

We are called to “listen” for God’s good work in creation, a rather surprising perspective given that it is the sense of sight that is far more commonly associated with this topic.  By so doing we are called to experience the beauty of creation at a deeper spiritual level, in which the surface beauty becomes only a thin veil covering God’s purposes.

2

This is my Father’s world:

The birds their carols raise,

The morning light, the lily white,

Declare their Maker’s praise.

This is my Father’s world:

He shines in all that’s fair;

In the rustling grass I hear Him pass,

He speaks to me everywhere.

We continue to listen as God conveys His truth through creation’s song.  All there offers up worship and praise to the Creator.

Now, the profound and unexpected turn occurs.

3

This is my Father’s world.

O let me ne’er forget

That though the wrong

Seems oft so strong,

God is the ruler yet.

This is my Father’s world:

The battle is not done:

Jesus who died shall be satisfied,

And earth and Heav’n be one.

What began as a beauteous celebration of God’s character as revealed by creation concludes with a meditation on the nature of our fallen state.  Yes, superimposed upon creation is a terrible power that distorts and attempts to destroy God’s purposes.  It has been there since time immemorial, and appears to hold all the levers of worldly power.

But sin and death has no real power in God’s world.  Though we mere mortals must live in its shadow, we yet can know with certainty that it has been defeated in the Person of Jesus Christ our Lord.  We therefore can fight the battle against evil with confidence that the victory has already been won.  And, that in the end, God will combine heaven and earth into that eternal perfection that we threw away in the fall.

It is this move from simple celebration of God’s creation to a contemplation on His response to our sin that raises this hymn from the realm of simple beauty to that of profound power to encourage and renew.

Amen

The PCUSA Elite Today (7)

multicultural-jesus

The Progressive Jesus Created Out of Whole Cloth by Our PCUSA Leadership

How to Respond?

I have been researching the beliefs and actions of our PCUSA leadership for over three years now.  I have also had direct experience based on my three year term as a Presbytery Commissioner.  That’s a total of almost seven years, spanning 2011 through 2018.  What has occurred over that time and how should we respond?

Since 2011 the PCUSA lost well over one-million members (1,070,777) and gained far less than a half-million (469,739).  That amounts to a net loss of over 600,000 Christians.  Over the same time period over 1,200 churches have exited the denomination or ceased to exist.  These cold statistics point to the devastation of human relationships and to the destruction of a once vibrant community of Christian faith.  These are people and churches who have given up on the PCUSA as a Christian home.  Their tragic testimony is utterly ignored, but the consequences exist regardless.

And what of those of us that choose to remain in the PCUSA who worship our Savior Jesus Christ as revealed in the Scriptures and interpreted by our historic Confessions?  We are a shrinking minority who are expected to either bow down to the false progressive god or to silently suffer humiliation as supposed racists, homophobes, you name it or to get out already.

But there is another choice.  We need not bow to their false god or slink around in humiliating silence or get out.  No, regardless of our declining numbers or receding power we can yet trust that “if God is for us then who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31b).  The elite leaders of the PCUSA have not one-tenthousandth the power of the ancient Roman Empire or the current People’s Republic of China.  It thus should not require super-human faith or courage to stand up to them.  And yet we fail to do so.

PCUSA-I-Don't-Know-This-ManIts time to start confronting these self-presumed theological, intellectual and moral betters.  We should demand that they answer for their reign of denominational destruction.  Why do they ordain atheists and reward heretics?  How do they justify denying the Christian God?  How do they explain the virtually perfect correspondence between their Christian “social justice” positions and those of the secular Progressive political movement?  How do they explain the direct contradiction between Christ’s definition of marriage and their policy on Christian marriage?  Why do they continue to feign allegiance to our historic Confessions while utterly ignoring them?  Why do they exclude Scripture’s testimony? Why do they have a boutique ideologically-tainted “theology” for every identity group and progressive political position? How do they know that Jesus Christ would support each and every position of a godless secular political organization? Why do they reject Biblical truth but demand that we submit to their admitted arbitrary human “truths”? Why do they make a mockery of their ordination vows and teach others to do the same? Why do they deny Biblical sin but embrace the concept of secular ideological sin?  By what right do they pretend to a moral superiority that their actions show to be utterly unwarranted?

To sum up all of the above apostasy, dishonesty and destruction, why do they pretend to be pious, orthodox Christian leaders?  If this seems extreme then you are living in a state of denial.  For, if a PCUSA member can get through the above material (which only scratches the surface) and still trust that our leadership has the slightest loyalty to orthodox Reformed Christianity then the only option is denial.

The fact that the Rev. Kershner so openly rejected the Christian God suggests that she believes the denomination to now be comprised only of supporters or deniers.  Thus she brazenly made her statement in the sure knowledge that no one in Fourth Presbyterian, the Presbyrery, Synod or General Assembly would rise to object.  And, that silence would allow her to go on pretending to be a pious, orthodox Christian pastor doing her level best to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  I single her out not because her’s is an extreme case, but rather because she is a contemporary and unmistakable representative of our denominational leadership.

Well, I object, and will not silently accept any of this.  I don’t care if no one or thousands join me.  My responsibility lies in being true to what Jesus Christ has done.

I understand that each of us has only so much time, energy, knowledge and skills.  I contribute in what I believe to be the best use of the gifts that God has given me.  Others will choose to contribute in their own ways.  But the point is that we are called to testify to the Gospel of Jesus Christ as God has given us the specific gifts to so do.  If we, each in our own way and time, choose to stand on that holy ground then we can remain in the PCUSA without shame or fear.  And, by God’s providential power we will make a difference even if we don’t see it in our lifetimes.

These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Hebrews 11:39 – 12:3 (NIV)

 

The PCUSA Elite Today (4)

Christian-GodThe Rev. Shannon Kershner Interview (3)

When I first came across the Sun Times article, Prominent Presbyterian pastor: ‘God’s not a Christian . . . We are’, I couldn’t initially digest the enormity of this statement.  In fact, I set it aside for months.  Only recently did the full force of the implications become apparent, thus leading to this series of posts.

Denying the Christian God

The context for the Rev. Kershner’s statement is straightforward.  At time 34:20 the interviewer suddenly (as in out of the blue) asks the following question.

Interviewer: Is Christianity the only way to get to heaven, if heaven exists?

The Rev. Kershner’s initial response is immediate and forceful.

Rev. Kershner: No!  God’s not a Christian, I mean we are.

Then there is a bit of verbal fumbling as she attempts to formulate a theological rationale for her assertion.

Rev. Kershner: … For me, the Christian tradition is the way to understand God and my relationship with the world and other humans and it’s the way for me to move into that relationship but I’m not about to say what God can and can not do in other ways and with other spiritual experiences.

The simple fact is that there is no possible way for a Christian pastor to justify such an initial response.  Had she simply followed up by saying that she had misspoke; this and previous posts would have never been written.  However, by immediately justifying her statement Rev. Kershner makes it clear that this is indeed what she believes.

And, what she believes is an explicit and unmistakable denial of the Christian God.

I’m confident that, were an exhaustive analysis of Scriptural and Confessional norms conducted, the number of violations would be at least in the many dozens.  There is simply nothing in the New Testament or in the interpretation thereof from our Confessions that supports such an assertion.

The Christian God is the Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, as defined in the Nicene Creed.  There are no other gods in addition to the Trinitarian God.  There is no conception of God other than the Trinitarian God.

Christians believe that Jesus Christ is simultaneously all human and all God.  He is the irreplaceable and eternally existing Second Person in the Trinity.  Thus to believe in Jesus Christ is to believe that God is Christian because Christ is God.  Although I had considered delivering an exhaustive Biblical and Confessional proof of these doctrines, I have concluded that so doing is a gross insult to the Christian faith.

However, I will comment on a couple additional aspects of her statement.

Visualizing the Non-Christian god

Another way to conceptualize the Rev. Kershner’s idea of a non-Christian god is to reduce it to concrete forms.  My consideration led to two (I’m sure there are more) distinct possibilities.  In the first, god becomes the summation of the gods of all cultures / civilizations.  Thus, each god or set of gods constitute a part of the total god.  The following figure shows this option (the numbers are estimates of the number of gods in a given set).

all-gods-2

The Non-Christian god as the Summation of all gods

Eagle-eyed readers may detect that in addition to the Chinese, Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish, Muslim, Christian and Pagan gods I have also included ancient idols and Satan.  Inclusion of the idols should be self-explanatory from a multiculturalist perspective.

However, many might consider the inclusion of Satan as going way too far.  It may or may not be comforting to know that I took this step based on guidance from “The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop and Primate, The Episcopal Church.”  In a sermon preached on May 12, 2013 in Venezuela on Acts 16:16-24, The Most Reverend Jefferts Schori comments thusly on the Apostle Paul’s exorcism of a demon possessed girl:

But Paul is annoyed, perhaps for being put in his place, and he responds by depriving her of her gift of spiritual awareness.  Paul can’t abide something he won’t see as beautiful or holy, so he tries to destroy it.  It gets him thrown in prison.  That’s pretty much where he’s put himself by his own refusal to recognize that she, too, shares in God’s nature, just as much as he does – maybe more so!

There you have it!  The concept of Christian inclusion means that a demon possessed girl’s spirituality is likely of a higher quality than that of the Apostle Paul’s.  It must be frustrating to our PCUSA elites to be behind the Episcopal Church in the inclusion sweepstakes.  However, they will surely redouble their efforts to catch up.

universal-god

The Universal Non-Christian god.  I have no idea where we are.

The other concrete instantiation of a non-Christian god is a universal god that transcends  cultures and civilizations.  In this case all human conceptions of god are partial and imperfect.  However, all in their own faltering way ultimately point to this same universal god.

If I had to choose which of these two conceptions is closer to the Rev. Kershner’s meaning it would be this second option.

Considering the “Christian Tradition” Explanation

The Rev. Kershner ties her concept of the non-Christian god to the “Christian tradition.”  Given that there is no Christian tradition as found in Scripture or our Confessions that supports her idea, one has to wonder to just what tradition she is pointing.

My best guess is it’s the “tradition” of post-modernist theological innovation that has occurred in the PCUSA since the Confession of 1967.  As foreseen by Dr. Van Til in an essay on the Confession of 1967:

The God and the Christ of this contemporary theology have very little in common with the God and the Christ of historic Christianity.  There is good reason to believe that the new theology has virtually manufactured a new Christ, a person who is essentially different from the Savior of the Scriptures.

I would say that this is a fair description of the “Jesus Christ” that Rev. Kershner has demoted to barely demi-god status, if not a mere human, now long dead and dust.

only-traditionOne last bit of bitter irony.  During the Reformation the Catholic church argued for the combination of Scripture and tradition for the source of their doctrine.  The Reformers countered that doctrine must be based upon Scripture alone.  Now, our most elite progressive Christian leadership is reduced to arguing that doctrine must be based on tradition alone, and a tradition that is ever changing to keep up with the fads and fancies of post-modern secular progressive ideology.  So, out with the “Five Solas” and in with the one Sola (i.e., Sola Traditum) that rules them all!

I believe that the “Scripture plus tradition” doctrine of the Medieval Catholic Church was far closer to the truth about Jesus Christ than is our contemporary elite’s “Tradition Alone” doctrine.  What a sad, pathetic situation.

The PCUSA Elite Today (3)

99%-Black

This is technically a shade of grey

The Rev. Shannon Kershner Interview (2)

The interview under discussion was wide ranging in scope.  Therefore, there are numerous topics with which I must disagree with corresponding levels of concern.  I will here cover one of those topics that rise to the level of great concern.

Biblical Authority

At around 15:50 into the interview the Rev. Kershner makes the following statement regarding the authority of Scripture in the PCUSA.

… because there’s a lot of grey in our denomination and you can have differing understanding of Scripture’s authority and still be a good Presbyterian.

On its face this statement isn’t alarming.  I would wager that in any Christian group outside of a cult there are differing understandings of Scripture’s authority.

However, if you happen to know the actual range of acceptable understanding for Scripture’s authority in the PCUSA this seemingly bland statement becomes disturbing.  It is so because you are forced to choose between two unpleasant conclusions.  One is that the Rev. Kershner is utterly ignorant about the true range of acceptable Scriptural authority understandings in the PCUSA.  The other is that, although she knows this actual range, she nevertheless obscures the truth by use of language that will be misinterpreted by the vast majority of listeners.

You may have noticed that in both previous posts I have referenced the PCUSA’s ordination of an atheist and approval of an ordained heretic.  My intent was to focus the reader’s mind on the true nature of our denomination’s position on Scriptural authority.  That being, there are no limits on the acceptable differences in this area.  If you yet doubt me, here are the publicly available statements of our PCUSA atheist ordained pastor, John Shuck, on Scriptural authority.

  • Jesus may have been an historical figure, but most of what we know about him is in the form of legend …
  • The Bible is a human product as opposed to special revelation from a divine being

Or, consider what the article published by the official PCUSA News Service had to say about proposals to delete Books from Scripture and add Gnostic books (emphasis added).

Until the writings of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul and the rest were codified as the New Testament’s canon some 300 years after His resurrection, people heard the story of Jesus told through additional eyes and voices. These Gnostic Gospels are attributed to, among others, Mary Magdalene, Thomas (he of “Doubting Thomas” fame) and even Judas.

The discovery of the Gnostic Gospels in Egypt rekindled debate among theologians and religious scholars about what a “proper” New Testament should contain. One think tank that emerged was the 150-member Jesus Seminar founded by Robert Funk. During his lifetime, Funk advocated for a volume along the lines of what was produced by Taussig’s council; Funk also lobbied strongly for the extraction of some books in the New Testament, among them the Gospel of John. …

… Along this line, Reyes-Chow was quick to point out that, with the Gnostic Gospels and other “new texts” heavily favoring the strong role women played in the early church, he didn’t pick up any sense of the New Orleans council attempting to be “politically correct” or compensating for the “male-dominated” approach of the current canon.

Note that here a past Moderator of the PCUSA General Assembly, the Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow, is advocating for the incorporation of Gnostic Gospels into the Canon of Scripture.  And, the PCUSA article clearly is supportive of this proposal.

I am extremely doubtful that the Rev. Kershner is ignorant of this situation.  Therefore, the following figure provides a summary of what is the most likely intention of her comment.

Scripture-Grey-Space

Using tortured misapplication of logic and rhetoric it’s possible that a case for 1% (or 0.1%, or 0.01% …) orthodoxy in the views of an avowed atheist and Gnostic heretic could be made.  Thus the Rev. Kershner might argue that she is technically telling the truth in the abstract sense that if even an infinitesimal  part is white in an otherwise black color the result is “grey.”  However, it strains credulity that the the Revs. Shuck’s or Reyes-Chow’s (apparently both “good Presbyterians”) views of Scripture’s authority fall within any reasonable interpretation of the ordination questions relating to this issue, to which they apparently answered in the affirmative.

W-4.0404: Constitutional Questions

a. Do you trust in Jesus Christ your Savior, acknowledge him Lord of all and Head of the Church, and through him believe in one God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?

b. Do you accept the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be, by the Holy Spirit, the unique and authoritative witness to Jesus Christ in the Church universal, and God’s Word to you?

c. Do you sincerely receive and adopt the essential tenets of the Reformed faith as expressed in the confessions of our church as authentic and reliable expositions of what Scripture leads us to believe and do, and will you be instructed and led by those confessions as you lead the people of God?

d. Will you fulfill your ministry in obedience to Jesus Christ, under the authority of Scripture, and be continually guided by our confessions?

In addition, here are the standards from the current PCUSA Book of Order that must be met for a person to be ordained as a minister (emphasis added).

 G-2.0503 Categories of Membership

A minister of the Word and Sacrament is a member of a presbytery and shall be engaged in a ministry validated by that presbytery, a member-at-large as determined by the presbytery, or honorably retired.

a.  Engaged in a Validated Ministry

A validated ministry shall: (1) demonstrate conformity with the mission of God’s people in the world as set forth in Holy Scripture,  The Book of Confessions, and the  Book of Order of this church; (2) serve and aid others, and enable the ministry of others; (3) give evidence of theologically informed fidelity to God’s Word; …

In what possible sense have the Revs. Shuck or Reyes-Chow demonstrated conformity or fidelity to God’s Word?  I contend not in any meaningful way within a denomination that calls itself Christian.

Why would our elite leaders want to obscure the truth about the PCUSA in this area?  Well, because were the truth generally known their moral credibility as Christian leaders would profoundly suffer.

 

The Death of Beauty (7)

Celebrating Past Beauty (5)

ww2-146-lPaul Ramsey Article (2)

Make no mistake, Mr. Ramsey had a partisan position with regard to participation in World War II — he was for it.  However, the means by which he pressed his point of view could hardly be more different than those used by today’s Progressive Christians.  For, nowhere in Mr. Ramsey’s article will you find accusations of mental illness in his opponents manifested as a “phobia.”  Nor will you find dark intimations of evil motives due to some sort of “ism.”  Finally, you will not find all of the talking points for his secular political position cobbled together with a throwaway reference to Jesus in order to claim that the piece is Christian.

What you will find is a profound meditation on the nature of the human condition in general and sin in particular.  Along the way he will acknowledge truth and error on both sides of the debate.  But the essential fact here is that Mr. Ramsey seeks to convince those in disagreement or on the fence by the quality of his arguments.  That is, he treats those not or not yet on his side as moral and intellectual equals.

By his own words Mr. Ramsey is in disagreement with “Liberal Protestantism”  on the issue at hand.  His opponents apparently were scandalized by the fact that prosecution of the war required people to engage in unrighteous acts.  Of this there can be no dispute, and Mr. Ramsey does not attempt to do so.  Rather, he points out that by so completely focusing on sin as “unrepentant unrighteousness” they fall prey to the less obvious but far more dangerous and destructive sin of “unrepentant righteousness.”

34+Then+Jesus+said,+Father,+forgive+them,+for+they+do+not+know+what+they+do.+Luke+23-34+(NKJV)The departure point for this argument is Christ’s words from the cross: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23: 34).  For, this greatest sin (perhaps excepting the “unforgivable sin”) was done entirely by people who believed that their motives were righteous.  For the Jewish leaders they were stopping a false Messiah.  For the Romans they were maintaining peace.  Mr. Ramsey’s point is that Christ’s words were not only applicable to that specific case, but are true in general.  Here is the key excerpt.

Do we not here recog­nize that sin and responsibility may vary inversely, rather than directly, with consciousness, so that greater sincerity actually means greater sin? Our own responsible and sinful implication in social institu­tions must already extend far out beyond the range of our conscious participation, else on what grounds do we make ourselves more consciously sinful by making ourselves more sensitive to the grinding, impersonal results of our common life? And when we are stabbed sharply awake to evil results that have followed from one of our actions, which we certainly did not “intend that way,” should this not give us pause, and bring the reflection that it is not just in this case that we sin not knowing what we do.

Mr. Ramsey’s point is not that, because sin consists of “unrepentant righteousness” then there is no need to be concerned about “unrepentant unrighteousness.”  Rather, it is to argue that by making an idol of our righteousness we can end up participating in greater sinfulness.

Before God, unrepentant unrighteousness and unrepentant righteousness come to the same thing; and an indication that they are judged alike by God is the fact that in history they come in time to the same thing, namely, cruelty. This is the Cross in History from which also, in the light of the Cross of Christ, we learn that man’s deepest sin lies in an unrepentant righteousness that knows not the sin for which it is responsible.

How then, if we must admit that we sin both in our unrighteousness and righteousness, can we avoid becoming incapable of any act or thought lest we thereby sin?  Mr. Ramsey’s answers are:

More fundamental than sorrow for our past sins is a repentant faith which in acting nevertheless waits for the Lord to complete by His Divine Provi­dence the goodness of our finite actions, and which still trusts Him when in His Divine Judgment our action is thwarted and rejected. If we are to be truly forgiven, truly the Father must forgive us.

and:

By the action of God in history, the sinfulness of human actions is judged and corrected, and the goodness of human action saved and incorporated in the Divine Will. Since our judgment about what is good is always infected by our sinful righteous­ness, the act of God in history always has, in rela­tion even to the best of us, an aspect of “otherness,” of being beyond the good and evil of our own mixed, self-defensive human judgments. When we do think we know the will of God for our time, our wills are strengthened, either to do or not to do, by a course of events utterly beyond our control. After each event we must always confess that we have been acted upon more than we have acted, that we have been changed more than we have changed anything, and that the ideals with which we began have not been realized in reality so much as they have been transformed to accord more with reality. By grace are we saved!

Nazi-Capture-Jews-WW2Although Mr. Ramsey’s prose does not achieve the heights of beauty discovered by Mr. Lincoln and Rev. Edwards, it yet is beautiful.  Its beauty lives in the lovely, humble and trusting manner in which he connects our fallen lives on this earth with the judgement and grace found only in God.  And, he meets a great human need by helping those brave but conflicted souls who found themselves called to oppose great evil to bear that terrible responsibility within the context of their Christian faith.