Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Last Temptation of Canterbury

I was thinking about alot recently. I was thinking about my future. I have planned for the last year to be in the ministry. However as anyone who pays attention to my blog has noticed I came to the conclusion that I believed Apostolic Succession to be essential and that I no longer accepted Sola Fide, or Sola Scriptura. Thus I decided that I would join the Roman Catholic Church. No other denominations have really tempted me since my decision, I seem fairly hopeful in my soon to be new faith. I theologically have changed alot and I'm sure I will become more Catholic but at the same time right now I am probably about a High Anglican with Roman Justification and Authority views, with a small but growing reverance for St. Mary.

However the fact that I desire to have a family and don't feel strongly called to the specifically Catholic priesthood means that I can have no future in ministry. I have found that however there still exists one temptation left to me. Anglicanism. I've written so much on Anglicanism on the blog that I don't feel like repeating all of it, but today I was reading Rowan Williams again - the Archbishop of Canterbury and thought about how awesome he is. He is very much an Anglo-Catholic, and basically everything he says I agree with. He seems to be a very intelligent Christian, and the Anglican model of Scripture, Tradition, and Logic is very appealing to me. I love the versatility of the church even if it includes heretical positions (like the whole Gay issue).
It is hard to stick to your convictions when your dream is to be a minister. So today my temptation among others was to go Anglican. My parents said that if I went to any non-Catholic school they would pay for it. That's tempting again. I was just thinking, wow I could move to South Carolina near Hannah and go to an Episcopalian school and study theology. I know lots of the psycho priests and bishops the Anglicans have in their church and am sure I could become an Anglican/Episcopalian Priest and still profess Catholicism mostly and stay gainfully employed and married as well.

However in my heart I know I'd always have problems. I don't think I could be in communion with Actively Homosexual Ministers of Christ - though this has only happened once it seems an inevitability. I don't know if I could work with 'brothers' who do not believe in the divinity of Christ, or the physical resurrection, or the virgin birth.

I knew that (at least today and for the last month) Roman Catholicism is the most defensible position for me, it makes the most sense and if I left it, I would leave the certain authority in the historic faith. If I was an Anglican I couldn't tell someone they were 'wrong' to not believe in the virgin birth. That's also why Dr. Rowan Williams is so tempting (in an entirely non-sexual way) because he believes the orthodox and historic Christian faith. He opposes heretical positions, but he is incredibly loving towards people of other faiths.

The problem again being that the English Government chooses the Archbishop of Canterbury. Caesar in essence is wed to the church. The Roman Pontiff's election (though corrupted throughout history) is organized by the college of cardinals, bishops the succesors of the apostles.
I'm 99% sure I'm still becoming a Roman Catholic as I've received so much grief, pain, and rejection already for it, and the fact that I believe it makes me think I'll become Catholic. However even if/when I do, I will always respect Dr. Rowan Williams and other Anglicans like C.S. Lewis. Williams has a way to answer these questions with such grace and truth it reminds me of what Jesus would be like in a Q & A session. He is one of my spiritual fathers, no matter what church I join.

All this to say that I am immensely tempted with tons of complications on all sides. Hmm maybe I could become a Catholic, and then go to an Episcopal seminary and then figure something out after that. I dunno. I guess prayer is all that will help. In the end I have to be intellectually honest and can't make decisions about my deepest beliefs based on money making etc. But I guess it is a factor.

hmm. at least this is my days greatest problem. I could be starving in some poor country somewhere in the southern hemisphere.

Jude 1-14

Jude 1-2 "Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James, To those who are called, who are beloved in God the Father and kept safe for Jesus Christ:"

Servant can also be translated as slave. I love the opening of Jude and how much we can learn from it, the author (presumably St. Jude) identifies himself as a slave of Jesus Christ, but in the same verse says that we are 1) called by God, 2) beloved by God and 3) kept safe by God. These are not incompatible statements but rather they are the 4 ways the author describes Christians and those to whom it's written. So Christians are to be overwhelmingly humble about their place in comparison to God's glory but at the same time, are defined by God's overwhelming favour towards them. Strangely we are to be slaves of God, but unlike human slaves we are blessed with "mercy, peace, and love... in abundance"

Jude 3-4 "Beloved, while eagerly preparing to write to you about the salvation we share, I find it necessary to write and appeal to you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints. For certain intruders have stolen in among you, people who long ago were designated for this condemnation as ungodly, who pervert the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. "

The author writes that we are to "contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints". I find it interesting that he claims they are to contend for the true faith. How do they know what the true faith is? They don't have the bible, this is 66AD, the Canon for the Jews would not be settled for another 24 years (Jamnia - though this council also rejected the NT).

How does Jude distinguish the gospel? it is the faith handed down by the saints - the set apart ones, the holy ones. How was it entrusted? ... we don't see any reference at all to scripture, so it must have been entrusted in the oral teachings of the apostles/church, as well as through this letter - which would be recognized as scripture in 360 CE in the Council of Laodicea. What is the author warning them? "about the salvation we share". So in Palestine right after the deaths of St. Paul & Peter, there was a threat to the salvation of the church, and the antidote to the heresy was the faith entrusted to the apostles.

My bible commentary says "the opponents pervert the grace of our God by understanding Christian freedom as freedom to do as they like. They deny Christ's moral authority by practicing and teaching immorality"

Jude 5-7 "Now I desire to remind you, though you are fully informed, that the Lord, who once for all saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterwards destroyed those who did not believe. And the angels who did not keep their own position, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains in deepest darkness for the judgement of the great day. Likewise, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which, in the same manner as they, indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural lust, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire. "

There are some interesting ideas here which I'd like to discuss. The author is comparing this situation to the Exodus where he says they were all brought out of Egypt BUT, God destroyed those who did not believe, after he had saved them, they disbelieved and were destroyed. He then talks about fallen angels (demons) and compares them to those in Sodom, and says that they in a like manner indulged in unnatural lust and sexual immorality. For both of you reading this, who may be confused as to when fallen angels who are sexless committed sexual immorality, it has been suggested that this refers to the Nephillim in Genesis 6 - fallen angels who had sex with women and gave birth to giants. (there are crazy things in the bible). The story is explained alot more in the Apocryphal book of 1 Enoch 6-19. It is interesting how throughout the book the author used apocryphal references which early Jewish Christians must have been well versed in if the author were to reference them.

Now notice it says "a punishment of eternal fire" and these groups are united. I loved the idea of Hell as an earthly reality, of Hell as a place you hold the key out of as C.S. Lewis describes, or even as a place people want to be in as Rev. Tim Kellar describes. But the author seems oddly clear. Eternal Fire. Painfully obvious it seems, that the author here is saying that those who neglect the faith entrusted to the saints will suffer a similar fate to fallen angels. That seems a little extreme as a human faced with the possibility of Hell, but again it seems the greatest - most significant human action is sin - or evil rebellion against God. Good ol' humanity, exemplified in sin and rebellion.

Jude 8-9 "Yet in the same way these dreamers also defile the flesh, reject authority, and slander the glorious ones. But when the archangel Michael contended with the devil and disputed about the body of Moses, he did not dare to bring a condemnation of slander against him, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you!’"

Here the author references another apocryphal story about the burial of Moses. It's purpose here is to illustrate similarities between 'these dreamers' - the heretics who threaten the church, and Satan. The archangel St. Michael was provoked by the devil to use his own authority to rebuke the devil, and thereby choose his own authority over God's, however Michael says "The Lord rebuke you!'. The commentary in my bible says "the implication of v.9 is to contrast Michael's behaviour with that of the opponents, who claim to be exempt from all moral authority and on their own authority reject all moral charges against them" - I think that's well put. The idea that God is judge on morality, and how do we know which is right? The faith entrusted to the saints.

Jude 10-11 "But these people slander whatever they do not understand, and they are destroyed by those things that, like irrational animals, they know by instinct. Woe to them! For they go the way of Cain, and abandon themselves to Balaam’s error for the sake of gain, and perish in Korah’s rebellion."

The author claims that they "slander what they do not understand" wow... I could write a whole blog about my encounters with similar people in the church today... but another time. It is interesting that each of the sins listed here are leading sins. Cain led humanity into murder, Balaam led Israel into apostasy, and Korah rebelled against Moses. Sacred scripture always shows that those who lead into sin are always more guilty than those simply committing it. *Jesus' woe to those who lead children to sin - remember the millstone around neck story?

Jude 12-13 "These are blemishes on your love-feasts, while they feast with you without fear, feeding themselves. They are waterless clouds carried along by the winds; autumn trees without fruit, twice dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the deepest darkness has been reserved for ever. "

I like that the Eucharist/Holy Communion was called a 'love-feast' that's awesome. Another reading of this verse is "They are shepherds who care only for themselves" - which is a throwback to Ezekiel 34 (I had to throw that in as Ezekiel pwns all). This is also contrasted with Christ as the Good Shepherd (John 10) as well as famous shepherds throughout scripture from Jacob, to Moses, to David. It has also been positted that these false teachers espoused their heresy at church gatherings - which were love feasts/Eucharistic Celebrations. I love the imagery he uses as well 'waterless clouds' - a reference to Proverbs 25:14, 'waves' - a reference to Isaiah 57:20 and the wandering stars reminiscent of those who falsely trusted astrology or astronomy I can never remember which one it is.

"for whom the deepest darkness has been reserved for ever" - that's pretty harsh again, but remember that this is almost directly the same as Psalm 23 - a promise to the faithful. "Though I walk through the valley of deepest darkness, I shall fear no evil, for Thou art with me". Strangely it seems in these two passages that possibly all followers of God must walk through the deepest darkness, however the faithful have a guide, the unfaithful are left to wander eternally. This reminds me of St. Augustine's "God had one son without sin, but he never had one without suffering".

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Ridiculous Realities Of Christianity

I was thinking about this the other day as I watched the biography of David Koresh, the leader of the Waco Brach Davidians who claimed to be a messiah etc. I could write an entire blog on him, but really I was just thinking about this one idea I got from it. That maybe cult leaders aren't as crazy as I always thought, because Christianity has some ridiculous claims.

If you actually do believe that Jesus will immenently return to earth or that the Anti-Christ could appear at any time and start seizing Christians, and that as Joel prophesied that the moon will turn to blood and the Day of the Lord will come upon us, it makes it hard to focus on alot of the more medial parts of life. I mean who wants to be doing laundry and miss the 2nd coming, really maybe those adventists and joho's who sat on mountains waiting for Jesus to return were just extremely sincere. I'm not advocating any of this - I'm an Amillenialist, so I won't be waiting on mountains anytime soon. But the reality is that if you really believe these ideas, you cannot be a normal person.

If you actually do believe that Jesus said 'go and sell all you have and give it to the poor among you' then you have to either live in a desert or the suburbs to find a loophole to the 'among you' part. But I mean it just doesn't make sense to me how Jesus preached take up your cross - equivalent to saying - take up your nooses, your handcuffs, and follow me. Sell everything. Basically become a communist. I'm sure alot of 'metaphorical' metaphors exist and that there are impressive exegetical gymnastics to get out of all those commands, but honestly, when people say 'you don't need to be so extreme' - where is that in the bible? Where is that in Church Tradition, or Christian history. Just read the life of St. Anthony of the Desert, he'll tell you what those verses mean. Ask the first generation of Christians that were labelled as masochists because they so desired martyrdom. I would be more open to someone telling me that Jesus was wrong or that his words are unapplicable to us, than someone telling me when he says 'take up your cross' he really means 'experience slight discomfort while praying in a restuarant' or any of the other 'modern equivalents'.

If you actually do believe that people will be sent to an eternity of eternal damnation for not hearing about Jesus, then maybe the people who ram the gospel down your throat are just acting in an honest way. If you believe that someone who is born in Mongolia and knows nothing about the Christian Triune God and will suffer the wages of sin for it, and you have the intellectual boldness to say that out of every single religion, out of every philosophy, mine is the only right one (or if you're 'humble' - my churches' philosophy). I've actually seen alot of this last one in my conversion to Catholicism, it's amazing how much people care about perceived 'heresy' (ironically defined as 'any teaching in conflict with the Magesterium of the Roman Catholic Church') more than about Christian living or about any of the above. I'm sorry for jabs at protestantism but I have to include the idea of one Eastern Orthodox who claimed all Protestants are crypto-papists (hidden papists) they believe that the Pope is not infallible but that they are. So congratulations Christendom we have acheived the appropriate level of Doctrinal honesty, we have hated enough and acted proud enough in our bold assertion of our own mutual claims of infalliblity... maybe we could start on the poverty issue now, and all the rest.

I guess I'm just trying to say, that in my mind, sometimes I think that you can't be a Christian and be normal. Sometimes I think (like Leo Tolstoy) that if Jesus Christ was on earth today, a very small group of people would like him. I don't think an honestly and integrally Christian worldview can ever be popular. I mean it is predicated on Jesus' statements that you will be persecuted. St. Paul says 'for all who wish to live a Godly live in Christ Jesus MUST be persecuted (Tim 3:12). You never see that verse on a bookmark at a Christian bookstore. I'm NOT saying that I live this out, please hear me again and again in saying that I do not live what I am complaining about out. I am no better than anyone I have criticized in practice. I just have come to believe that the only people I really think who are living out a biblically and historically Christian life are persecuted Christians of all kind in the 3rd world, missionaries, priests and all clergy who take vows of poverty, chastity, and celibacy, and others who can honestly say 'if I wasn't a Christian you wouldn't even be able to recognize me I would be so different' - I cannot say that, but I certainly am starting to think that being able to have the honesty to live a 'Real' Christian life, filled with worldly faillure, poverty (which is historically viewed as a Christian virtue), suffering, and the deepest devotion and Sacrifice for Christ, is alot more important than half the stuff we waste our lives caught up in. I'm not saying that those things are good in and of themselves, I mean there are many Muslims who do all that for their faith, I just mean motivated out of a love for God and grounded in that, all those things are to be our 'signs of success' in Christianity.

Thus I've come to believe that to truly be a Christian in the strictest sense, you have to be crazy.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

C.S. Lewis - Awesome Quote

"This is the whole of Christianity. There is nothing else. It is easy to get muddled about that. It is easy to think that the Church has alot of different objects - education, building, missions, holding services...The Church exists for nothing else but to draw men into Christ, to make them little Christs. If they are not doing that, all the cathedrals, clergy, missions, sermons, even the Bible itself, are simply a waste of time. God became man for no other purpose." - C.S. Lewis in "Mere Christianity"

I am glad that there are men like C.S. Lewis and St. Augustine, who in my opinion can teach things to Christians of every branch and denomination. I think Lewis hits the nail on the head with this quote I read this morning. I love that he says 'even the Bible'. It's so easy to forget the simple faith, as the Church Fathers said "God become man in all ways but sin, so that man might become like God in all ways but essence".

Jacob's Ladder - Places Of God's Presence

"Taking one of the stones of the place, he (Jacob) put it under his head and lay down in that place. And he dreamed that there was a ladder set up on earth, the top of it reaching to heaven; and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. And the Lord stood beside him..."Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I promised you". Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said, "Surely the Lord is in this place - and I did not know it!" And he was afraid, and said, "How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven." - Genesis 28:11-17 NRSV

I was thinking today as I drove home about the places and times I have felt or seen God (I know that 'no one has seen God' according to the bible - whatever, I'm using artistic license). It is usually at times when I am overcome by stress or anxiety and suddenly there is a moment when everything is pushed completely out of the way for a little while and the Lord overwhelms me. I can almost guarantee it happens whenever I look at the stars. I love the whole experience because it reminds me that there is God - that being, a greater than which cannot be concieved (as I remember Descartes for my philosophy exam) - and he is so much bigger than all of our idiotic human rules. I remember God as I kneel in mass and think that yes Jesus is in the elements, but that God is in everything, and that the whole of creation is being redeemed. It is amazing.

I feel as if I truly understood the greatness of God, nearly every experience could be one of His awe-inspiring presence. I think those moments, like Jacob's realization that God was there, and he did not know it, are proof that we get so caught up in our own lives that we miss the great truth that remains hidden to us. It is that God is always at work and has been since creation, as Christ teaches us in St.John's gospel. It is that our very existence is contingent on God.

Hope is to me one of the most - if not the most important feeling or virtue. I sense immense hope when I realize that in a similar but not identical way Buddhism teaches, this world is an illusion. I have to study Nietzsche's theory that the supernatural realm is an illusion for my philosophy exam, but I believe the opposite. Our human realm is built upon the supernatural reality of God. We struggle to live in the presence of that truth, it is nearly to much to comprehend - maybe it is to much to fully comprehend - and that is why people hide from it. Because if Jesus is the centre of the universe it naturally has to effect my life.

Indeed the whole world is being sanctified, it is being redeemed, it is winning and the world is overcome by grace. As Romans 5:20 says "where sin increased, grace abounded all the more", and in 8:21 "creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God". Finally we are assured that one day it will be finished and we are told "the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, "The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign forever and ever." (Rev 11:15)

But until then when the whole world is reclaimed God's kingdom, I think we will feel those Jacob's ladder moments, those places we encounter God's overwhelming presence. I remember at Bible School in England running around a loop everyday, that time has been the proudest of my life, and everyday I would stop for breath at a pond and pray, it was a place I would meet God. I remember walking into Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris and looking up at the ceiling and being taken up in the grandness of it all, the beautiful stain-glassed windows and the light shining through them. These are times when I feel like I can see the truth which the prophets constantly remind us. God is in control! he is ruling the universe. No matter what happens, the greatest tragedy ever, God is still in the throne of the universe - as Rob Whittaker said was the message of Joel.

So this week as I go into exams, tonight as I go to work, next month as I search for a job, and all of these experiences fill me with fear and almost a feeling of the vacuum of God, I must remember the lesson of Jacob's Ladder, the lesson that God is Sovereign (and that this doesn't just mean he predestines people to hell before they're born, lol - always need a shot at hyper-calvinism) but that at the end of the day, when the bills come, and the job is stressful, and the family rejects you because you're becoming a Catholic (an experience we all have) - that one day, it will all be done, Christ will reign, the Kingdom of the World will become the Kingdom of God and his Son, and they will all live happily ever after. (the elect at least).

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Moses: Knowing God, Face to Face

"Never since has there arisen a prophet in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face. He was unequalled for all the signs and wonders that the Lord sent him to perform in the land of Egypt, against Pharaoh and all his servants and his entire land, and for all the mighty deeds and all the terrifying displays of power that Moses performed in the sight of all Israel. " - Deuteronomy 34.

I don't have anything too theologically deep to say, I was just pondering what life was for Moses. When I read the Church Fathers I like the fact that they use people like Moses and the Patriarchs, and the stories of the torah to make statements about what the Christian life is about. I'm still reading the Life of Moses by St. Gregory - it takes me forever, but I'm kind of glad I'm not done, I am enjoying it over a long period of time, and everything he writes is so rich in meaning and application that it's hard to read more than a few pages at a time.

As I think about Moses I am amazed at his faith. We have all read the bible and know the stories of friends and family who have trusted God and been blessed. But look at Moses. It's hard to try to put yourself in his mindset. All he knew about God was that the Lord was the God of Abraham and had done great and awestriking things like destroy Sodom & Gomorrah. He knew God had made a promise to Abraham. But maybe he didn't even know all of that, as he was raised in Pharoah's house. Maybe when he was shepherding those sheep and saw the burning bush he didn't know anything about God. Didn't know things like 'God is love', didn't know the fruits of the Spirit - nor probably even about the Holy Spirit. But the conclusion of Deuteronomy is so wonderful, it is easy to understand why the Jews revere Moses as the greatest prophet (other than the fact it says right here). He was a man who KNEW God intensely. He learned about God's character himself. Could you imagine being on Mount Sinai, seeing God in the darkness and hearing him tell you his character and his law. Absolutely brilliant.

I remember reading a book called 'Prayer Works' by Brother Andrew once. The book was poorly written and a bit heretical and not really helpful, to me except for his great stories as a man serving the Lord, and a for one lesson from scripture that I think I'll always remember. It is from a commentary on the Pentateuch and it is the part where God is so angry with the children of Israel that he says to Moses that he could make Moses the father of nations or leader/whatever. The point was that some commentator said when describing the conversation between an angry God, and Moses trying to calm him, the Hebrew could be translated, 'Moses smoothed out the wrinkles (of anger) on Jehovah's face'. It was a beautiful picture of God to me. The Calvinists of course are ripping their hair out in anger because Moses acting as such is clearly opposing God's sovereignty etc. But I think it's beautiful.

I am in love with the idea of synergism (another reason I like Catholicism) because it's the idea that God works with us. That we really are in a covenant with Him. That he created humanity not just for a puppet show of his divine glory, wrath and mercy, to amuse himself. But that he genuinely wants to live in relationship. That he wants to love his children, hear prayers, and even oddly enough be angry at us when we screw up (like the Israelites), out of his desire for our own good. Maybe I'm making an Anthropomorphic God or some kind of other big scary sounding word that some random person believed in the 6th century and was killed for heresy in a horrific way, but I just think the life of Moses is amazing.

As I plan on confirmation I realize that my relationship with God will change significantly in that I will now have a different answer to 'where are you God'. In the Eucharist, in the communion, and in the Church. It is comforting to think as well that because of Christ's death the temple curtain has been ripped, and like Moses we can each know God face to face. If I accomplish nothing else in my life, that is my greatest desire.

St. Gregory describes Moses' life as a journey, and writes that the knowledge of God is a mountain indeed and few ever scarcely reach it's base. He describes Moses journey in a mystic way where in the beginning Moses saw God in a blazing fire (burning bush) , after that he followed him in smoke/cloud (pillar of cloud) , but when he truly knew God and was more perfect he could see God even in the darkness (Mount Sinai).

Imagine what I'd be like to have talked with God face to face so much that you could hear his voice and see him even in utter darkness.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Worship is Scary: Fearing God

I just got back from Mass at St. Alexander's. It is a fairly modern Roman Catholic church, there are giant stained-glass windows and a huge Jesus with outstretched arms at the centre of the church. There are the stations of the cross (via crucis), pews, pianos, not too different from some Anglican churches aside from the obvious things I've mentioned. The Homily (sermon) was on Jesus the Good Shepherd, and all of the liturgy was about Jesus actually, every other word was Christ, and Mary and the Pope only got one name drop a piece the whole time. One thing was unusual though to my low church experience, we had to kneel for the Eucharist - which if you believe as I do, it's Jesus, it isn't that big of a deal to have to kneel - and we had things to recite that I didn't know - luckily I have memorized the Apostles Creed etc, but not everything.

I was thinking, as I knelt and dodged the people rushing forward and back to the pews in a synchronized pattern, man this is a bit strange and uncomfortable to me. Then I thought about what the Mass claims to be and a few other things. The Mass is supposed to be (it can be argued of course) an ancient service handed down by the apostles, and I figure if I felt comfortable through all of it, and it simply catered to my needs, how would that by Christ-centred and Historic Christianity. I started to think, maybe worshipping God IS supposed to be a bit scary.

Proverbs says 'the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom', but we are to love God perfectly and St. John writes that 'perfect love casts out fear' it's a bit of a paradox. Some people translate 'fear' as 'reverence', and that might be closer to it. I decided to go through the bible and see whether worship involved fear.

In Exodus 19 it describes when God is about to give the law to Moses. It says that God descended onto the mountain in a dense cloud, and that "all the people who were in the camp trembled". In Exodus 24:17 it says "the LORD was like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain in the sight of the people of Israel". I can't find it now - I wish I could, but I read a verse the other day where the people of God were to go before the Lord but they were too terrified and wanted Moses to do it, because they were afraid. These are God's people here, Israel, the body which now includes the church (for you covenant theologians out there). It is interesting to me that God's worship was on his terms, his way, not what was comfortable, little to nothing about the law was 'like everyone else' or 'comfortable'.

In Isaiah 6 when Isaiah has a vision of heaven, even the angels cover their faces from God, and the description of heaven is scary. I mean they burn his lips with a coal for his ordination, come on!

In the gospels Jesus message and God's truth got him killed. And he said lots of scary things about fearing God who can kill the body and the soul.

In Acts 4 the believers pray for boldness because they are persecuted so much. In Acts 5 God strikes Ananias and Sapphira DEAD for commiting a high handed sin against God (or a mortal sin for Catholics). God is scary, there's no getting around it.

Philippians 3:20 it says that 'our citizenship is in Heaven' St. Paul describes the church as a colony of Heaven - something the Philippians understood as the city of Philippi was a Roman colony of Greece. The people were different from the surrounding towns, they spoke Latin, they had Roman culture and Roman food etc. So when Paul describes what we are to be like - it is a description of something unrecognizable to the culture, completely 'un-seeker sensitive' in appearance, but seeker sensitive in love/charity. Likewise Peter's epistle calls us 'aliens in this world'.

Finally in Revelation 4, when St. John is witnessing the worship in Heaven, he describes a crazy Rainbow-colored, lightning-shooting, throne with people chanting a liturgy over and over for all eternity, falling on their faces before God, surrounded by strange scary sounding animals. This is God. This is worship, and it's not hard to imagine that being in the presence of Almighty God worshipping the Creator of the Universe, maybe should fill us with 'fear and trembling' - as we are told by Paul to work out our salvation in. (Phil.2.12)

I guess the thesis of all this is, I think Bill Hybels is wrong, God wants loving people, but still, people who fear him, people called out to be different and strange to those around them. Not churches that are afraid to put up crosses because they might 'offend' people... maybe that offends Jesus, I mean he seemed a little attached to the cross if I remember (forgive me for that off colour joke).

Wednesday, April 9, 2008


"We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins" - Nicene Creed

My entire life I've been taught at our Evangelical Baptist Church that baptism is 'an outward sign, of an inward reality'. I was baptized at 16 and I thought little about it before hand. When I was in the tank I gave my testimony and conversion story and agreed with the whole saved sola fide (faith alone) blah blah, and then the baptismal formula and as I was dunked with the word 'Spirit' ringing in my ears I came out of the water. .... let it be known I'm no charismatic, I have no problem with them at all, but I'm more tempted towards rationalism than anything, I'm a doubter. But when I came out of that water I felt this rush come over me, it was a bit like being shocked, but in a good way. I felt incredibly holy. I was utterly confused and stumbled out of the tank... it did not feel like 'an outward symbol' ...

I am well aware that my personal experience should not be enough to convince anyone, but I find it interesting as I read St. Gregory of Nyssa, and St. Augustine, and the Nicene creed above all else that the early church - in my limited knowledge - seems like it was overwhelmingly in favour of 'regenerative baptism'. Now if you stumbled onto this blog and you aren't one of my theology friends then I'll explain. Regenerative Baptism is the idea that in baptism your sins are washed away, and forgiven. This is an idea within the East Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and some Anglican and Lutheran churches (note *some).

As the Council of Trent says, "If anyone shall say that real and natural water is not necessary for baptism, and on that account those words of our Lord Jesus Christ: "Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost" (John 3:5) are distorted into some sort of metaphor: let him be anathema". Anathema means cursed to hell. I'm not sure I would go that far, but those Catholics, they're sticklers for orthodoxy.

I think it's interesting as I've never come close to believing that before, how it seems strangely close to the experience I felt. In St. Gregory's book he likens baptism to the Israelites crossing the Sea of Reeds (or Red Sea for you KJV folks). He says that as the Egyptians were drowned, so our sins are washed away. ... He also says creepy stuff about not being able to sin after baptism, but I'm going to ignore that for this post.

I think it's crazy how we can read those words from Nicea that Baptism is FOR the forgiveness of sins and still disagree with this idea. ... I guess it's like we can read the words "One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church" and ignore those as well.

I again am not sure where I stand on alot, I know so very little but I feel like I'm learning tons as I go along. I mean just yesterday I argued for believers baptism with Lance lol, but I think this position is alot stronger. Once again I am left with the uncomfortable feeling that in Protestantism the only place left is the teetering, splintering, liberal theology infested, Anglican communion. God save it.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Zombie Illustration - Sin/Total Depravity and Congregational Polity

So I was watching 28 weeks later the other day, which is a scary and awesome movie. I was thinking about how the virus spreads and people become zombies or 'infected'. Basically the person gets the virus and suddenly they are changed, they look the same, but then they start flailing and screaming and become filled with rage. They vomit up blood and are altogether disgusting, just looking at them is horrifying and they don't seem human anymore. Their only desires suddenly shift and now the only thing they want to is kill and spread the disease.

I think this is a great picture of sin. The way that it spreads throughout humanity, so that in the end we still 'look' a bit human, just like we still have the Imago Dei - that we are made in the image of God, but it is marred and made all the more repulsive in the light of the power of this infection this sin. We become utterly helpless, infected, hostile to everyone. One Quaker Theologian said 'humanity is united together after the fall only in their mutual enmity with God' and I think that is a great description of the infected. They don't work as a team really, they move together but only in their hunger for death and spreading the infection. This is what I think it is like for God to look at sinful humanity. We would never say that killing an infected zombie is 'wrong' or 'unjust' but actually that it helps rid the world of evil. And it's not the fault of God that we've infected ourselves. So I think this view has helped me ALOT in understanding sin and redemption. But the good news of course is that God cures some of us.

I also was thinking, in that situation that all men and women stand equal before God. All equally infected, or cleansed by God. This made me wonder about the way churches are run. Maybe the Brethren have their polity right? As George Fox says "Why should any man have power over any other man's faith, seeing Christ Himself is the author of it?". Bonhoeffer echoes this sentiment a bit when he describes how before God we stand with either one mediator (Jesus) or none, and that there is no priest or pastor between the Lord and us. So maybe a Congregational church polity isn't that far off.

It's also funny to think when you look at the greatest human acheivement or character, and look at God how quantitatively different they are. So much so that who can honestly make up a system of good works to earn salvation. Our finite works are nothing, in comparison to infinite goodness. Once again I feel Luther was right, and as Paul says 'Faith from first to last'.

Our lives are not our own. an illustration

"In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps." - Proverbs 16:9

I was thinking about this on a walk in the woods yesterday. I think we usually lie to ourselves in a few ways when it comes to life. We either tell ourselves that everything that happens to us is our fault because we are the masters of our fate - as a poet once said, we make our own destiny. I think the other thing people believe is blind fatalism, in that we can fight all we want but in the end we can't change anything, the universe has conspired against us and onward we float toward the eventual waterfall.

I have felt both ways before, and I'm sure I will again. But I've been thinking, maybe Jared/Calvin is right and we are able to choose our own way, but strangely every path we choose was really the only path we could choose anyway. Maybe it's like Rob Whittaker used to tell us, and the will of God is like a 6 lane highway. We can switch lanes, but we're still headed in the same direction.

I have a feeling that our lives are not our own. I feel like I have been given an incredible gift - life. It can feel like a burden sometimes, and maybe it can be so painful because it is so valuable. I don't know if you can have one and not the other. The whole good without evil argument that apologists use.

I used to think we had alot more control over how we lived. I used to think life turned out well for Christians and problems were like mini-fires that pop up every once in a while, and we simply put them out and move on. That's how I used to imagine struggles and trials which was easy, we overcome and move on.

My image now is alot different. I feel like life - maybe I should specify, the Christian life - is like walking through a forest fire. It's not a perfect world with small fires, it's a world of smoke and flames and black burnt out forest that we wander through, and every once in a while a wind blows by and we catch a glimpse of the blue sky, we get a breath of clean air, and we know that one day we will reach the end of this slow walk through the ruins, to a good place once more. It's not that life is like a checklist to go through, or accomplishments to be made, but more like a long long movie, with boring parts, sad parts, and amazing parts. Every beautiful thing we see is an image - a small part of the glory ahead.

So that's what I think life is like. I also think that everyone else in our world is taking a completely different approach. I feel like everyone else is saying for us to just sit down and enjoy the wasteland, and that it's actually the greatest good there is. That we are delusional for thinking there's an end to the forest fire, and that our best chances lay in enjoying life in this fallen place, and that if we go off walking for our whole lives we waste what little hope we have left.

That is my Forest fire illustration. My next post will be a 28 days later/ Zombie illustration.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Discipline and Life Change as a result of what we believe

"All living theology grows out of personal experience" - Howard H. Brinton (Friends Theologian)

I think this is a very important idea, that whatever our philosophy of life be, or our theology is, that it should be intrinsically tied to our living. Religion was once defined by a teacher of mine as 'how to live right', and the latin 'religare' means a 'relationship with God'. Both of these definitions work together in my opinion.

Some might say that my theology changes my life as it's generally all I talk about, and the fact that I am hated at brock for it. However I must say that I have so much to live out in my faith. I thirst for discipline, and the ability to act upon what I know is right. I know Walmart uses child labour and that Shane Claiborne is right about most things, but at the same time, I don't seem to believe what I preach enough to actually act on it and drive somewhere else. This isn't just about theology either, take the environment. My brother works as a Forest Ranger guy and his wife is in the Ministry of Natural Resources job circuit as well, I've read alot of theology about ecology and how we should treat the earth better. I mean who thinks we should ruin the earth? no one. So I support the Green Party in debates lots of times, and defend extra costs spent to protect nature, but what do I do? Drive an SUV by myself with Premium Gas, and then vote conservative because they lower our taxes. What an awful contradiction. There are plenty of other sins I could go into but I'll keep this G-rated.

I am fascinated as I study the Anabaptists, the Mennonite Brethren, the Quakers and the Low Church denominations alot. After studying the high church Anglican/Catholic/Orthodox theology, it is like a breath of fresh air - or maybe just air that I am more comfortable with. I am amazed at them because they act so strongly on what they believe. They don't go to war, they live completely simple lives, away from society, in a Christian family, and abstain from pretty much everything. Many of them even in the 17th centuries like the Quakers refused baptism because they believed wholly in Christ and that he didn't need 'a sprinkling of cold water' -as one Quaker said- to save them. Now this isn't shocking to most, but just look at this debate between Voltaire (Catholic/Deist) and a Quaker:
It was believed (and still is even by some protestant denominations) that for someone not to be baptized was for them not to be a Christian. Voltaire gets horrified about the fact that this holy man who loves the Lord hasn't been baptized. The Quaker defends himself and pretty much pwns Voltaire in the end using scripture.

Where this ties into the topic again, is the fact that they believed something strongly about God, that is not 'served by human hands' as Paul says in Acts 17, and even though many said they were in fear of Hell, they stuck firm and trusted God. I desire in my own life the strength to live that way. To be simple, and to know what is right and do it. To live right in every aspect, healthwise, schoolwise, jobwise, etc.

I've currently reordered my own values and tried a bit and put alot more emphasis on Christ, and not worry so much about my own accomplishments and success as just being satisfied in his goodness. I know that sounds stupidly trite and 'spiritual' but actually I think that all 3 of you reading this might disagree with this choice, and maybe it is wrong, I don't know (just trusting my inner light as the Friends say). But if I'm worried about school or stressed out from a long day and I have homework or something, I just sit down and pray or relax or read my bible instead. So I might do worse in school, but I am much more at peace, and I am constantly remembering that my entire life is in God's hands and he will lead me wherever I go, and that I should be still and know that he is God, instead of trying to prove myself and earn my own self-worth from my meager accomplishments. Maybe I'm just 'Christianizing' laziness, but I don't know, and maybe I'm totally wrong, but right now it is the path I am taking, and in this moment I look to my brothers and sisters the Anabaptists and remember that my religion is about living right, and being a Friend of God.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The Anabaptists: From the Radical Reformation to Radically Dogmatic

I was thinking about the History of the Anabaptists today. The Church I was raised in and the school I was taught in were both Mennonite/Anabaptist. When I read history about them it is hillarious for me to categorize them as 'The Radical Reformation' - Radical? ... a church that excommunicates someone for dancing seems a little old fashioned to me, but such is the historical shift. I think it's funny to read about the first Anabaptists and how they set up this polygamous theocracy in Munster, believing that once they had enough babies and reached 144 000 people, they would be raptured and the Kingdom of God would be at hand. I know people who have been kicked out of Anabaptist churches for getting pregnant, and I can barely imagine one where people were constantly copulating in hopes of bringing about God's will.

Menno Simons I guess was quite different from those at Munster, so maybe that ties in a bit. As I read his writing I find nothing that shocking; in fact about 70% of his writing is just direct quotes from Scripture and the other 30% is about how Catholics are wrong about everything... so maybe there is a bit of continuity between the Mennonites then and now lol. The only shocking thing I found was that he quotes the Apocrypha, right next to scripture and makes no distinction. I think that fact would scare a few of the grannies at the local MB church.

As cynical as I can be about the Mennonites, they do have a great history. I will always remember the stories my grandmother handed down to me about how the Ukranian Orthodox and the Mennonites used to actually befriend each other at the time of the Bolshevik Revolution and how they escaped to Canada with money sown in their clothes and had miracles occur where they narrowly escaped guards and jumped off trains and hid in fields, all to preserve their faith. Maybe that's why my grandma was so pissed when I looked at Catholicism, it's like a slap in the face to all of my heritage. It's wild how movements change though. Nowadays the Mennonites are strangely dogmatic in their anti-dogmatism. So they claim to have no creed, but if someone brings up Just War theory they call them heretics, or if someone mentions infant baptism, they are on the side of the Anti-Christ. Maybe when you are persecuted by everyone (like they were in the Reformation), you choose what things you'll die for, and in essence become dogmatic about those things. It's probably hard to die for the freedom to choose to believe whatever you want. It's a bit airy.

I did find it funny though that one Reformation program said that the Anabaptists promoted 3 things which were intolerable to 16th century culture:
1. Freedom to choose your own religion, 2. Not drinking alcohol, 3. Not beating your wife. lol good ol' Anabaptists

Pastoral Issues

I've been wondering lately about the whole thing in Evangelicalism where people pick a church by pastor and kind of go from church to church untill they find the best one. I kind of do this as well (though I do study the theology lightly behind each of the churches). I wonder about the role of a pastor is in Protestant churches. The Priesthood of all believers kind of destroys everything Paul says about Bishops and Deacons and Pastors at the church, and having a Congregational polity kind of destroys the idea of God placing leaders in the church to lead the people in the right way, even if it is the unpopular way.

My Pastor and I are a bit at odds lately for lots of complex reasons but I feel like I'll probably end up just finding another church and go there. But there's another problem. The closest church to my house is the 1st Presbyterian church, which is led by a female minister who barely speaks english and preaches at a sunday school level, the music sucks, the pews are rock hard, and there's probably a congregation of 35 people mostly over 60. But because I am my own pope in essence, I can choose to drive 20 minutes to the 'cool' non-denominational church in the town, with friends my age who attend, good preaching and good music. But then again, why should I judge on those characteristics, maybe I should go back to the Nicene creed and find a church that is One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic, well I don't know if any 'Holy' churches exist these days... Ok so lets remove Holy and go with Apostolic, Catholic and One. I could go Catholic ... but then I'd have to throw away my bible. I could go Anglican... but then I'd have to throw away God (liberal Anglicans in Canada). I could go Orthodox... but then I'd have to learn Ukranian or Greek and make up a fake family tree.

So maybe I'll just give up on theology all together and go Mennonite Brethren...