Saturday, January 30, 2016
Do you believe in the Sovereignty of God? How do you apply that faith to the Church in the present times? Jesus is Himself both King and Kingdom; all kingship has been committed to Him by His Father. “God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-11).
This is not some pious or abstract proclamation, but a present reality for the Church today. For that reason history has always witnessed that heresy and heretics can never win no matter what they do or say. That is why we hold fast that which has been believed “everywhere, always, and by all.” Twenty centuries of Christian witness to the truth, as it has always been in Jesus, testifies to the miraculous tenacity and vitality of the Church.
The Church has often been beset by assaults from within and without. The dying and rising of Jesus has often been echoed by the dying and rising of the Church throughout history. The Church, which is the Body of Christ who is its Head, is dying and rising again in our own days. No one truly enjoys dying but dying always come before rising from the dead. There is a salvation issue that is most important: All will die, heretics and faithful alike, but only the faithful Remnant will rise again. Where is Marcion? Where is Arius? Who but scholars and church historians remember them anymore? Years from now the Remnant renewed and reformed will be asking “Where are bishops Pike, Spong, Robinson and Schori?” All gone! All gone! Footnotes in the history books of moribund theologies! All gone! All gone!
Reflecting on the reactions from the last Anglican Primate Meeting could be very discouraging without a historical perspective. Taking the long view will help you not to over-rate the importance and influence of any single Primate, Archbishop of Canterbury, or Bishop. Not all of them were brilliant with eternal light. Take for instance Reginald Pole who was the Archbishop of Canterbury (1556-1558) during the reign of Bloody Mary. Pole acted as her chief minister and adviser sharing the responsibility for the martyrdom of 220 Protestant men and 60 Protestant women. Now there was an effective Archbishop of Canterbury! The martyrs included Thomas Cranmer who was Pole’s immediate predecessor and also the primary author of The Book of Common Prayer. Pole is still at Canterbury! He is buried at north side of the Thomas á Becket chapel in the Cathedral.
Only the true Church will remain. That true Church confesses that “we all with one accord teach men to acknowledge one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, at once complete in Godhead and complete in manhood, truly God and truly man, consisting of a reasonable soul and body; of one substance with the Father as regards his Godhead, and at the same time of one substance with us as regards his manhood.” The true Church confesses that our Lord Jesus Christ is the true revelation of the Father and that He alone is the way, the truth, and the life. That true Church will remain firmly planted in the word of God and continue to proclaim, “it stands written” in the word of God, and, “The Scriptures are God’s voyce; the Church is His eccho” [John Donne].
The immediate question is both deeply personal and corporate. It is no less than the Christ, the Sovereign Lord God who asks, “And you, who do you say that I am?” Don’t dare just mouth the words, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Don’t mouth the words, believe them with all your heart and soul, with all your mind and strength. But don’t mouth the words as empty rhetoric importing into them the old new-age philosophies.
Take them the way Holy Scripture intended, the way the confessing Church has always believed them. Do not in foolishness divide the mind of God from His self-revelation in Holy Scripture. The essential issues of faith and morality have never changed. “Contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. “For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ” (Jude 3b-4). They cannot win. They never have. They never will. The true Church, the Body of Christ, will endure for ever. As for them, there will come a time when they will be gone. All gone! All gone! Only the saints, the holy ones will abide for ever.
God is shaking the foundations and only what is firmly established on the Rock will remain. I believe in the Sovereignty of God. I see no reason to separate myself from our godly bishops or the faithful Christians in this diocese. Do not be frightened nor flee in panic, but stand fast in faith and be bold to confess the Faith in the midst of this very wicked world. In the meantime bear with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, and devote yourself to the apostles teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers (Ephesians 4:2b-4 & Acts 2:42).
Monday, January 18, 2016
One of the tragedies of TEC is that conservative people have fled too soon just because they feel uncomfortable. That has weakened TEC itself and left it pray to fundamentalist liberalism. It takes courage to fight rather than switch. Where in this wicked world can they go? Our call is to proclaim both the love and holiness of Christ within the Church as well as in the world, but sometimes the situation is too toxic for some people to endure it.
On the other hand there are some who have fled for very mixed motives. This is especially true where some self-righteous conservatives have fled from conservative dioceses led by godly bishops, and weakened the work of God within the diocese. Among them in my own diocese was one very forceful priest who fled hoping to be ordained as a bishop by the Church of Rwanda. A problem arose when the Church in Rwanda discovered that he had been previously divorced and they don’t ordain divorced men as bishops. To confound the problem this man led other clergy out the door with him.
The conflict within TEC is not new. Karl Barth remarked that one of God's miracles was that the Church still exists, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote that, “The old world cannot take pleasure in the Church because the Church speaks of its end as though it had already happened--as though the world had already been judged. The old world does not like being regarded as dead. The Church has never been surprised at this, nor is it surprised by the fact that again and again men come to it who think the thoughts of the old world--and who is there entirely free from them? But the Church is naturally in tumult when these children of the world that has passed away lay claim to the Church, to the new, for themselves. They want the new and only know the old. And thus they deny Christ the Lord.” [Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Creation and Fall, translated by John C. Fletcher. (New York: Macmillan, 1959), 11]