Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Anglican 'sweate' (Sudor Anglicus)

I was always taught that the English, like Southern ladies, did not sweat, they perspired. Delving into medical history we find otherwise.

Five hundred years ago, Sudor Anglicus was known as “the sweating sickness” since the hot and sweating stage of the illness occurred often before death.

The English 'sweate' (Sudor Anglicus)

A rapidly fatal viral infectious disease appeared in England in 1485, persisted for the summer months and disappeared as winter approached. This pattern of infection re-appeared in 1508, 1517, 1528, and finally 1551. The epidemic never returned. It had no respect for wealth or rank, and predominantly attacked males between the ages of 15 and 45 years. The incubation period was frighteningly short and the outcome normally fatal. The symptoms of acute respiratory disease and copious sweating were characteristic, providing the name 'the English sweating disease'. It was never in the big league of killer epidemics, such as plague and influenza, but its pockets of instant lethality in communities gave it a special ranking of horror. The infective cause of this disease remained a total mystery...
From Br J Biomed Sci. 2001;58(1):1-6. which speculates about the Hantavirus as a possible cause.
If I ever see Justin Welby sweat, I will know that the end of the Anglican Communion is near. Maybe that is why he is holding the upcoming Primates meeting in the middle of winter instead of in the heat of the summer.

From Facebook

Sunday, October 04, 2015

Traditional Marriage Apologetics

Since this Sunday's readings included God's creation on woman from Adam's rib and Jesus' words in Mark 10,
"But from the beginning of creation, 'God made them male and female.' 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.' So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate."
I thought it was a good time to revisit the whole marriage debate even though it seems (at present) to have been settled in the U.S. this issue is still ongoing in the U.K.

The following is excerpted from an article posted at the Gospel Coalition a couple of months ago. It provides a concise defense of marriage against revisionist arguments for same-sex marriage in the church. It was written by Darrell L. Bock who is senior research professor of New Testament and executive director for cultural engagement at Dallas Theological Seminary.

He refutes six common claims which we have all heard and sometimes felt ill prepared to challenge,

  • Claim 1: Jesus didn’t speak about same-sex marriage, so he’s at least neutral if not open to it. What Jesus doesn’t condemn, we shouldn’t condemn.
  • Claim 2: The Old Testament (OT) allows all sorts of “prohibited” marriage, including polygamy and what would today qualify as incest. If those were permitted, surely monogamous same-sex relationships should be allowed.
  • Claim 3: The move to prohibit recognition of same-sex marriage is like the church’s past blindness on slavery, women’s rights, and a geocentric universe—where what was “clearly” taught in Scripture is now seen as wrong.
  • Claim 4: We don’t follow all sorts of OT laws today (try laws on having sex while a woman is menstruating, or eating certain types of food), so why should we accept what the OT says about same-sex relationships?
  • Claim 5: Same-sex marriage doesn’t harm anyone, so it’s morally acceptable and people should have the right to choose what to do.
  • Claim 6: The ancient world didn’t understand genuine same-sex love, so this is a new category to consider.

I will give you two of his takedowns,

Claim 1:
"This is an argument from silence, but the silence doesn’t take place in a vacuum. Jesus addresses and defines marriage in Matthew 19:4–6 and Mark 10:6–9 using both Genesis 1:26–27 and Genesis 2:24 to parse it out. Here Jesus defines and affirms marriage as between a man and a woman, a reflection of the fact that God made us male and female to care for creation together. With this definition, same-sex marriage is excluded. Had Jesus wished to extend the right of marriage beyond this definition, here was his opportunity. But he didn’t take it."
That is called answering an argument from silence with an argument from silence; what Jesus did not affirm, we should not affirm. I am not sure that works, but the following might,
"Jesus never discussed same-sex marriage because the way he defined marriage already excluded it. He was not as silent on the topic as some claim."

Claim 6:
"Apparently neither Jesus nor Paul nor even God the Father—who inspired Scripture—recognized this potential category. But this claim ignores how widespread same-sex relationships were in the ancient world. Not all of them were abusive or exercises of raw social power. This is a classic example of 'chronological snobbery,' which C. S. Lewis described as 'the uncritical acceptance of the intellectual climate common to our own age and the assumption that whatever has gone out of date is on that account discredited' (Surprised by Joy, 206), and which his friend Owen Barfield explained as the belief that, intellectually, humanity 'languished for countless generations in the most childish errors on all sorts of crucial subjects until it was redeemed by some simple scientific dictum of the last century' (History in English Words, 154)."
Readers might want to get some references from Robert Gagnon on same-sex relationships in the ancient world in order to better defend this argument. See also this Facebook page of his.

In conclusion, Bock writes,

"Divine revelation gives us every indication there is something sacred about God’s image being male and female, and something profound about marriage between a man and a woman (Eph. 5:32)—something that makes marriage unique among all human relationships."

Read the whole thing here.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Papal Visit Inspired What Exactly?

There are many reasons why I am not a Roman Catholic, and as I watched Pope Francis burn through thousands of gallons of jet fuel during his recent trip to the U.S., flying from one east coast city to the next when any environment respecting, global warming fearing, humble man would have taken the train or walked (as one group did, walking from Baltimore to Philadelphia to see him), I couldn't help thinking about the contradictions.

Much of the oohing and aahing from the media covering the papal visit was about how he reached out and touched the handicapped and children. One of the strengths of the Roman Catholic church is the way it inspires people to do good works such as caring for the sick and the elderly.

One of its weaknesses is that it sometimes appears to teach righteousness through works.

One of the strengths of the Roman Catholic church is that it sometimes treats its people like sheep.

One of its weaknesses is that it sometimes treats its people like sheep.

One of the strengths of the Roman Catholic church is the way its people sometimes choose to ignore papal teachings.

One of its weaknesses is how it inspires people to go through mental hoops in order to ignore its teachings.

One of the strengths of the Roman Catholic church is the huge numbers that turn out for special worship services.

One of its weaknesses is that huge numbers seem to turn out for worship when the pope comes to town and the rest of us are left to wonder, "Just who is being worshiped here?".

Any church can be inspirational and disappointing at times.

How many of you were inspired in some way by Francis?

Was John Boehner inspired to resign as Speaker of the House after the Pope asked Boehner to pray for him?

Was Nancy Pelosi inspired to change her mind on her anti-Roman Catholic political views?

Was I inspired to swim the Tiber?

Were you?

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Dilemma: Mark 9:38-50, What Parts to Ignore?

Today's Gospel reading was Mark 9:38-50, and I cannot tell you how many times I have heard this used as a jumping off point for a sermon that failed to deliver. Here is the text,

John said to him, ‘Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.’ But Jesus said, ‘Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterwards to speak evil of me. Whoever is not against us is for us. For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward. 
‘If any of you put a stumbling-block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea. If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than to have two hands and to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than to have two feet and to be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into hell, where their worm never dies, and the fire is never quenched. 
‘For everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good; but if salt has lost its saltiness, how can you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.’
By failing to deliver, I meant that all too often the parts about getting thrown into hell get thrown into limbo and treated as though they never existed. The past two times this reading came up at our church, only the first section was discussed. Wondering if this was common practice, I headed over to the Episcopal church's "Sermon's That Work" page to look for another example. I think the following excerpts prove my point: Episcopal sermons tend to fixate on just the part of the Gospel that fit the preacher's worldview and make people feel good (I have highlighted the Episcopalian code words).

September 27, 2009
In today’s gospel, we hear the intriguing story of Jesus’ disciples trying to stop a man who had been casting out demons in Jesus’ name. They seem to have become especially upset because the offender was not one of them. In the eyes of the disciples, he was not part of the inner circle, and he was acting differently from what they considered to be the norm.
As soon as Jesus heard about it, he turned the tables on his closest followers and rebuked their blind, unbending exclusiveness. He told them not to stop the man, because whatever good is done in Jesus’ name would put him in a situation of not speaking evil of the Lord. And tellingly, Jesus concluded, “Whoever is not against us is for us.”
Jesus made it clear that he and his disciples were not a little clique, working in a corner of life, fenced off from others. His world view, his God’s-eye view, made him well aware that God’s actions are not limited to the forms with which his disciples were familiar.
What is the lesson in this for us? Don’t Jesus’ words ring true as a rebuke of our often blind and unbending exclusiveness, our arrogant assumptions that God’s action among us is limited to forms with which we are most comfortable and most familiar?
In this, our Lord gives us a model for a broader view. There is an issue of tolerance. Doesn’t Jesus’ message to the disciples help us stop short when we fall into the all too common trap of thinking in terms of “us” and “them” – seeing life only from the perspective of our own groups?
Intolerance of the other is certainly an attitude that Jesus rejected in today’s gospel reading. Possibly, he realized that the disciples considered the man casting out demons as a threat to their inner-circle status. He was an outsider, so they tried to stop him. Jesus rejected this by making it clear that only in a more narrow sense can one be an outsider.
What was true for the disciples has been true throughout history. The world and the church have fought for centuries in such a fence-building frenzy. The stories of the past schisms and divisions are legion. And living out the tendencies of the same human nature, we still act this way in our time, don’t we?
Standing against this, Jesus’ words remind us that Christianity is not the preserve of a privileged few. He reminds us that no one seeking to do the Lord’s work is an outsider. He reminds us to welcome all people who are willing to join the journey, following our Lord. Over and over again, Jesus’ words remind us to be including – not excluding. Over and over again, Jesus’ words rebuke us when we turn against others because they are different. Over and over again, the life Jesus lived and the way he taught his first disciples remind us of the scandal of our divisions.
There is another side to this, of course. Sometimes, conscience and practicality dictate that we separate ourselves from others, but the message here, at the very least, is not to do so lightly – not to draw a line in the sand except as a last resort. Jesus helps us work against the subtle temptation to think that “for me to be right, anyone who disagrees with me must be wrong.”
Jesus seems to be telling the disciples something like this: “Look for the commonality. Recognize that there are many among you who might work or think differently, but don’t jump to the conclusion that that makes them against you – or against me.”
He warns us against simplistic solutions to complex problems. He causes us to see that truth is always bigger than any one person’s, or any one group’s grasp of it. Jesus cautions us against inflexibility of thought or deed. He helps us embrace tolerance of a variety of actions and viewpoints. He helps us re-learn what is so easy to forget: that diversity is not only good; it is absolutely essential for the health of the Body of Christ.Today’s gospel reinforces a belief that what we need in the church is less “either/or” and more “both/and.”
Where do we find commonality? Why not begin by looking to our earliest roots? Those who can declare that “Jesus is Lord” are not against us, and therefore are for us, and for Christ. Those who can follow the steps of Jesus, taking up their crosses and denying themselves for the sake of God and God’s children are not against us, and therefore are for us, and for Christ.
The story of today’s gospel is about the disciples’ attempt to draw a circle around Jesus and themselves – shutting out the one who was casting out demons in Jesus’ name. Perhaps a concise, powerful poem by Edwin Markham can help us remember that Jesus ordered the disciples not to exclude that man and to recall that those who are not against us are for us.
In his poem “Outwitted,” Edwin Markham writes:
“He drew a circle that shut me out –
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But Love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle that took him in.”

As a child, it was the parts about cutting off your hand or foot or ripping out your eye that got my attention when I heard this Gospel reading. Those were the things that needed the most explanation. I suspect that most Episcopal churches today ignored those verses and instead focused on the first section, maybe throwing in a few references to the Papal visit to the United States that drew so much attention this week.

I can hear it now, "The Pope is one of us, we are one with him, all is well!"  

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The De-mythologisation of the Anglican Communion

This title to an article in The Atlantic says it all,
"The Archbishop of Canterbury: Dissolving the Anglican Church to Save It" 
"Justin Welby will reportedly try to preserve the group of churches, shaken by fights over homosexuality, by loosening its ties."
To which the world yawns and asks, "Who cares?"

To be honest, being "in communion" with the worldwide Anglican Communion has never been all that important to me during my lifetime in the Episcopal church. Perhaps that feeling is common in Episcopal circles, and perhaps this is one of the reasons why the Episcopal church has strayed so far from its erstwhile communion partners around the world: they and their opinions have not been felt to be important, which is not the way we are supposed to feel now is it?

Just what is this Anglican Communion supposed to be anyway? puts it this way,

"The 1930 Lambeth Conference described the Anglican Communion as a 'fellowship, within the one holy catholic and apostolic church, of those duly constituted dioceses, provinces or regional churches in communion with the see of Canterbury.'" - Colin Buchanan, Historical Dictionary of Anglicanism
"Today the Anglican Communion is 38 autonomous national and regional Churches plus six Extra Provincial Churches and dioceses; all of which are in Communion - in a reciprocal relationship - with the Archbishop of Canterbury, who is the Communion's spiritual head.
There is no Anglican central authority such as a pope. Each Church makes its own decisions in its own ways, guided by recommendations from the Lambeth Conference, Anglican Consultative Council, the Primates' Meeting and the Archbishop of Canterbury." (the so-called instruments of communion - UGP)
The four attributes of the Church, "one, holy, catholic, and apostolic", are things that Lambeth 1930 and we claim to believe each time we recite the Nicene Creed.

For the sake of argument, try to answer the following questions,
  • When is a church no longer one?
  • When is a church no longer holy?
  • When is a church no longer catholic?
  • When is a church no longer apostolic?
I would answer that the church is no longer one when its regional churches become so autonomous that significant differences in doctrine appear and false teachings become part of their formal structure.

I would answer that a church is no longer holy when it rejects one or more of the teachings of Christ.

I would answer that a church is no longer catholic (universal) when its autonomous churches start acting as though they were each their own universe, and these universes collide.

I would answer that a church is no longer apostolic when it rejects one or more of the teachings of the apostles.

Unfortunately, a few of the churches in the current Anglican Communion have lost one or more of the attributes of the Church, and I will leave it up to the reader to figure out which ones I am thinking about.

Looking again at the 1930 Lambeth Conference definition, I conclude that the Anglican Communion, as it is currently constituted, is a fellowship, outside the one holy catholic and apostolic church.

Even using the looser modern definition, the Anglican Communion is not a communion. For example, when was the last time the Episcopal church made a decision that was guided by recommendations from the Lambeth Conference, Anglican Consultative Council, the Primates' Meeting and the Archbishop of Canterbury?

So, the myth of an Anglican Communion probably should go the way of the Gods of Olympus, and maybe Archbishop Welby's meeting will mark the beginning of its end.

If only Edith Hamilton were still around to write the story in a more entertaining way for future students of Anglican mythology, otherwise it is going to read more like a Shakespearean tragedy which will be entertaining but in a different way.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

The First Gender Neutral Account in the N.T.?

Today's Gospel reading was from Mark 9:30-37, and the translation most heard in the Episcopal church (NRSV) leaves an interesting first impression,

They went on from there and passed through Galilee. He did not want anyone to know it; for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, ‘The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and three days after being killed, he will rise again.’ But they did not understand what he was saying and were afraid to ask him.
Then they came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house he asked them, ‘What were you arguing about on the way?’ But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, ‘Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.’ Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them, ‘Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.’

Did you notice that the child was referred to as an "it"? In the Authorized translation "it" was translated as "him".

I vaguely remember a time as a child when I was unaware of gender.  I cannot remember exactly when I learned about the difference between little boys and little girls, but it was probably around age 3 or so, or about the time I started to read (I was a bit precocious).

I remember my first opposite sex attraction. It was in the first grade, and I faced a little bit of derision from my classmates at the time, but later, in college, my friends were quite impressed that my first kiss was with an individual whom they identified as a "hottie".

Today, with gender differentiation being left entirely up to the individual child (who is not to be influenced by his parents in any way), what are children to think?

I know this is politically incorrect to say, but I think we should raise girls to be girls and boys to be boys.

In interpreting Mark's account, it matters not whether the child is a he or a she as the end result is the same, but the fact that this is an issue (how we translate this passage) points out a shift in our culture where we are more likely to assume that a gender neutral translation is preferable to the gender specific one that our parents learned.

Is that a good thing for children?

If your answer is no, then why do we stay silent as gender neutrality is shoved down our throats (I am thinking about the upcoming revision of the Book of Common Prayer among other things).

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Upper South Carolina Churches Invite Bishop Spong to Re-educate Their Sheep

The following alarming announcement came from the Diocese of Upper South Carolina last week.

Bishop John Shelby Spong  
September 22nd, 2015
7 pm - 9 pm
St. Luke's Episcopal Church, Columbia 
Hosted by St. Luke's, ColumbiaEpiscopal Bishop John Shelby Spong, author of such books as Why Christianity Must Change or Die and Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism, will speak in Columbia, SC, at St. Luke's Episcopal Church on Tuesday, September 22, 2015, at 7 pm.  St. Luke's is located at 1300 Pine Street in the Historic Waverly neighborhood, near Five Points in downtown Columbia.   
Spong will lecture on "CHRISTPOWER in the Radical Center of Life--A New Christianity for a New World," followed by a question and answer session with the audience. Spong always promises to provide a provocative, thoughtful, and enlivening experience for seekers from all faiths and denominations (or none) and across all religious and political spectrums. 
His appearance in Columbia is a cooperative effort of several local congregations including St. Luke's, St. Martin's in the Fields, Church of the Cross, and St. Simon & St. Jude Episcopal Churches, as well as the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Columbia and the Jubilee! Circle, Columbia.
When I looked up Jubilee Circle, Columbia, I was not surprised to find that their tag line reads, 
"From certainty to mystery ..." captures our mission at Jubilee! Circle. Our goal, in both community and worship, is to move us out of the dogmatic forms of religion that restrict us and quash our creative spirit with their "certainty" and move us instead into the "mystery" of the Holy where we can experience liberation, freedom, and new ways of moving and being in the world.

Liberal, progressive Episcopalians would feel quite at home at Jubilee Circle where they follow a Pelagian theology called "Creation Spirituality",
"Jubilee! Circle uses as its guide the principles of Creation Spirituality outlined by Matthew Fox. Most of the Christian theology today is drawn from a story of fall and redemption - where we've fallen from God's grace and are originally cursed with sin. Instead, Jubilee! Circle focuses on a theology of Original Blessing, which Fox tells us is older than the fall and redemption story which traces its roots to the fourth century and Thomas Aquinas."
While no more harm can be done to the Jubilee circle crowd or to the Unitarian Universalists by Bishop Spong's falsehoods, it is alarming that the Bishop of the Diocese of Upper South Carolina is letting this old heretic come and teach his Episcopal sheep. So what if Spong teaches that there was no virgin birth, so what if he professess that the wedding at Cana was Jesus' own wedding, and so what if he denies the physical resurrection of Jesus. 

According to Spong in his book "Jesus for the Non Religious,

Therefore, when I say that God was in Christ or when I assert that I meet God in the person of Jesus, I mean something quite different from the theological definitions of the past that forged doctrines like the incarnation and the trinity, both of which depend on a theistic definition of God. So in order to get to the essence of who Jesus was and even who Jesus is, I must get beyond the traditional theistic definition of God that I now regard as both simplistic and na├»ve, to say nothing of being wrong. p 214  
This means that anyone seeking to discover the meaning of Jesus today must be prepared to acknowledge that this story of the crucifixion is not history. While Jesus was undoubtedly crucified by the Romans, the familiar details that accompany the story of the cross are not literally true and did not actually happen. p. 112  
The resurrection language of the gospels is literal nonsense. Earthquakes do not announce earthly events. Angels do not invade time, space and history to roll back a stone, to make a historic resurrection announcement. A resuscitated Jesus does not walk out of his tomb in some physical form that can eat, drink, walk, talk, teach and expound on scriptures. p. 122
If anyone in the world qualifies as a false teacher, it would be Bishop Spong. Who dares to tell God what He cannot do?

So what Bishop in his right mind lets his priests invite false teachers into his house?

Upper South Carolina is going down the tubes. Thank you Bishop Spong, I now believe there will be no resurrection... of this diocese.