There’s good statistics and some broad generalizations on Christianity.ca about the no-longer-upcoming Millennials. I did enjoy the remark, “They have no problem believing in God; their problem is believing in Christians.” Hopefully the Church is up this generation’s aspirations.
Archive for the theology Category
From Chapter 16 of Cory Doctorow’s book Little Brother:
It was easier to tell, the second time. The secret was getting lighter. I didn’t embellish, I didn’t hide anything. I came clean.
I’d heard of coming clean before but I’d never understood what it meant until I did it. Holding in the secret had dirtied me, soiled my spirit. It had made me afraid and ashamed. It had made me into all the things that Ange said I was.
A little over halfway through the book, Marcus tells everything to his dad: his tangles with Homeland Security, his role in Xnet and what happened to Darryl. The description is a familiar one to anyone who has come clean with a secret or for anyone who has made a confession in church.
The wide-scale copying and distribution of the Scriptures is a benefit to our spiritual lives:
The law of Moses was wonderfully preserved by heavenly providence rather than by human effort. And although by priests’ negligence the law lay buried for a short time, after godly King Josiah found it [II Kings 22:8; cf. II Chron. 34:15], it continued to be read age after age. Indeed, Josiah did not put it forward as something unknown or new, but as something that had always been of common knowledge, the memory of which was then famous. The archetypal roll was committed to the Temple; a copy was made from it and designated for the royal archives [Deut. 17:18-19]. What had happened was merely this: the priests had ceased to publish the law itself according to the solemn custom, and the people themselves had also neglected the habit of reading it. Why is it that almost no age goes by in which its sanction is not confirmed and renewed? Was Moses unknown to those who were versed in David? But, to generalize concerning all sacred authors, it is absolutely certain that their writings passed down to posterity in but one way: from hand to hand.
John Calvin, trans. Battles, Institutes of the Christian Religion I.viii.9
Here’s the relevant quote from Deuteronomy 17:18-20:
When he has taken the throne of his kingdom, he shall have a copy of this law written for him in the presence of the levitical priests. 19It shall remain with him and he shall read in it all the days of his life, so that he may learn to fear the Lord his God, diligently observing all the words of this law and these statutes, 20neither exalting himself above other members of the community nor turning aside from the commandment, either to the right or to the left, so that he and his descendants may reign long over his kingdom in Israel.
Thank God that Moses didn’t copyright the Torah! Without an interest to copy, duplicate and distribute, the scroll Hilkiah found in 2 Kings 22 would have been worm food.
Bishop Gene Robinson will blog his experiences at president-elect Barack Obama’s inauguration events in Washington, D.C. He will be using his old blog, Canterbury Tales from the Fringe, again.
Bishop Robinson last used this blog while at Lambeth Conference in 2008. Although uninvited he appeared at many “fringe” events there and wrote about his experiences. Hopefully this blog will show us what happens behind the cable broadcasts and media events.
Theology in a Digital World is a collection of essays and lectures dating from 1984 to 1987. It was published by the United Church Publishing House and can be obtained through that source.
The articles include:
- The Magical Computer
- Have You Hugged Your Computer Today?
- A Software World
- Theology and Interpretation: A Footnote to McLuhan
- Living in Virtual Un/reality
- Technology, Communication and the Future
- Theology and Distance Education
In the preface to Calvin’s Institutes, he writes to King Francis to answer his Roman critics. They accused Calvin of being opposed to the early Church Fathers. In particular, by simplifying the liturgy, he had opposed the ancient Church, its liturgy and traditions. (See it in context.) Calvin writes:
It is a calumny to represent us as opposed to the Fathers (I mean the ancient writers of a purer age), as if the Fathers were supporters of their impiety.
Among the Fathers there were two, the one of whom said, “Our God neither eats nor drinks, and therefore has no need of chalices and salvers;” and the other,<!–
//–> “Sacred rites do not require gold, and things which are not bought with gold, please not by gold.” They step beyond the boundary, therefore, when in sacred matters they are so much delighted with gold, driver, ivory, marble, gems, and silks, that unless everything is overlaid with costly show, or rather insane luxury, they think God is not duly worshipped.
He appeals to Ambrose of Milan, On the Duties of the Clergy ii.28 (De officiis clericorum). Here Ambrose defends himself for his selling church gold and silver vessels to redeem captives. He, in turn, appeals to the Scriptures and the ancient legend of St. Lawrence (see it in context):
It is a very great incentive to mercy to share in others’ misfortunes, to help the needs of others as far as our means allow, and sometimes even beyond them. For it is better for mercy’s sake to take up a case, or to suffer odium rather than to show hard feeling. So I once brought odium on myself because I broke up the sacred vessels to redeem captives—a fact that could displease the Arians. Not that it displeased them as an act, but as being a thing in which they could take hold of something for which to blame me. Who can be so hard, cruel, iron-hearted, as to be displeased because a man is redeemed from death, or a woman from barbarian impurities, things that are worse than death, or boys and girls and infants from the pollution of idols, whereby through fear of death they were defiled?
These, then, I preferred to hand over to you as free men, rather than to store up the gold. This crowd of captives, this company surely is more glorious than the sight of cups. The gold of the Redeemer ought to contribute to this work so as to redeem those in danger. I recognize the fact that the blood of Christ not only glows in cups of gold, but also by the office of redemption has impressed upon them the power of the divine operation.
Such gold the holy martyr Lawrence preserved for the Lord. For when the treasures of the Church were demanded from him, he promised that he would show them. On the following day he brought the poor together. When asked where the treasures were which he had promised, he pointed to the poor, saying: “These are the treasures of the Church.” And truly they were treasures, in whom Christ lives, in whom there is faith in Him. So, too, the Apostle says: “We have this treasure in earthen vessels.” What greater treasures has Christ than those in whom He says He Himself lives? For thus it is written: “I was hungry and ye gave Me to eat, I was thirsty and ye gave Me to drink, I was a stranger and ye took Me in.”<!–
//–> And again: “What thou didst to one of these, thou didst it unto Me.” What better treasures has Jesus than those in which He loves to be seen?
These treasures Lawrence pointed out, and prevailed, for the persecutors could not take them away.
The Archbishop of Canterbury just made similar appeal to the Lawrence story in his New Year Message:
A little before Christmas I visited a new academy in Scunthorpe named after St. Lawrence. Lawrence was a Christian minister in Rome in the days when you could be arrested and executed for being a Christian, nineteen hundred years ago or so.
When he was arrested, he was told to collect all the treasures of the Church to be given up to the courts. He got together all the homeless, the orphans and the hungry that the Church looked after in the city, and presented them to his judges, saying, ‘These are the Church’s treasures.’
Like any really good school, St. Lawrence’s treats its children as treasures. In the last few months we’ve had to think a lot about wealth and security and about where our ‘treasure’ is.
But it set me thinking – what would our life be like if we really believed that our wealth, our treasure, was our fellow-human beings? Religious faith points to a God who takes most seriously and values most extravagantly the people who often look least productive or successful- as if none of us could really be said to be doing well unless these people were secure.
So what about a New Year in which we try and ask consistently about our own personal decisions and about public polices, national and international, ‘Does this feel like something that looks after our real treasure, something that keeps our real wealth safe – the lives and welfare of the youngest and most vulnerable?’
From the Concord Monitor coverage:
New Hampshire Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson, an outspoken, international gay rights leader, has been asked to give a prayer at one of President-elect Barack Obama’s first inauguration events at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.
The announcement follows weeks of criticism from Robinson and gay-rights groups over Obama’s decision to tap the Rev. Rick Warren, who’s likened committed gay relationships to incest and polygamy, to pray on inauguration day.
Robinson, an early Obama supporter, said last month the choice of Warren left him feeling as if he’d been slapped in the face. In a telephone interview this weekend, Robinson, of Weare, said he doesn’t believe Obama has included him in response to the Warren criticism. But he said his inclusion won’t go unnoticed by the gay and lesbian community.
- N.H. bishop invited to D.C. to give prayer, Annmarie Timmins, Concord Monitor
- NH’s Bishop Robinson will be part of inauguration, the Associated Press report, Union Leader
- A good summary of coverage at Episcopal Cafe’s The Lead.
- New Hampshire bishop invited to offer prayers at inaugural kickoff event, Mary France Schjonberg, Episcopal Life Online
- Metafilter also discussed the appointment.
Ken Bedell’s April 1999 article on implicit trust given to Internet information and it’s relation to 1 John.
From the article:
In a recent conversation, a professor at a school of theology told me about a problem. Her students use the Internet to research topics for papers that they write for her and then they reference web pages in their footnotes. The problem she presented was that the students do not distinguish between sources that are authoritative and those that are not. She said, “If they find it on the Web then they think it is true.”
This question of how to discern useful information for our faith development and what is “really, really crazy” is very old. It is the central theme of 1 John. The first three chapters of this letter are mostly about the importance of love in community. Then in verse six of chapter 4 the author writes, “This then, is how we can tell the difference between the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.” Most translators and commentators place this phrase at the end of the preceding argument as if it summarizes what has just been said. The previous section is an unsupported diatribe against the Gnostics. The implication is: If people agree with me, they speak the truth. If they disagree with me, they speak error. I think that it makes more sense to see the phrase in I John as an introduction to the section that follows. In that case the criteria for making a distinction between truth and error is to test ideas in the community of love.
Via the IRTC Newsletter, David Scott’s article asks, “Can people be shaped in Christian community within the cyberculture?…”
From the article:
The aspect of our modern culture I explore in this essay is the Cyberculture. I address three aspects of the Cyberculture suggested by the three Persons of the Holy Trinity. The perspective of God, Creator Father directs attention to the Cyberculture as an expression of technological power and creativity. The Person and Work of Jesus Christ lead to Part Two: the Cyberculture for personal identity. The third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit directs the third question I put to the cyberculture. Can people be shaped in Christian community within the cyberculture?
First a few words about what I mean by “cyberculture.” The English language word “cyber” derives from the Greek word “kybernan” meaning to guide, to pilot, or to govern. The specific form of governance or control meant by Cyberculture is that made possible by computers. The word “culture” in the phrase Cyber-Culture means a way of life, i.e. the customary beliefs, social forms and material traits of a social group. So, when I speak of a Cyberculture, I mean a way of life, patterns of beliefs, social forms and material traits of people for whom computers use shapes their daily existence.
I believe we should distinguish two forms of the emerging Cyberculture. One set of cyberculture citizens own computers and spend enough time using them that they have changed their beliefs, how they relate to people and how they live each day. In this sense, Cyberculture is socially restricted: it is a culture in which young, white males predominate. It also is a culture primarily within the western world. Further, it is a culture populated by people who can read and type. Finally, it is populated by persons who can afford the several thousand dollars needed to own a personal computer, its accessories and for access to the Internet and the World Wide Web.
Josh Harris blogs his notes on John Stott’s book Between Two Worlds. This summary comes in handy when stuck!
A copy in case the blog goes away:
The following is something I put together for myself after reading John Stott’s book Between Two Worlds on preaching. This is basically an outline of his chapter on preparing a message with slight additions for my own personal use. I hope it encourages fellow pastors. (The picture is from this spring when I had the privilege of meeting Mr. Stott when he visited the states.)
1. Choose your text and meditate on it.• Read the text, re-read it, re-read it and read it again. • Probe it, chew on it, bore into it, soak in it. • You are not called to preach yourself or your ideas, but charged to “preach the word” (2 Tim. 4:1-2). Clarence Edward McCartney: “Put all the Bible you can into it.”
2. Ask questions of the text.
• What does it mean? Or better yet, what did it mean when first spoken or written?
• What did the author intend to affirm or condemn or promise or command?
• What does it say? What is its contemporary message? How does it speak to us today?
• Remember: Keep these questions distinct but together–the text’s meaning is of purely academic interest unless you go on to discern its message for today, it’s significance. But you cannot discover it’s contemporary message without first wrestling with its original meaning.
3.Combine diligent study with fervent prayer.
• All the time you study cry humbly to God for illumination by the Spirit of truth. Like Moses, “I pray you, show me your glory” (Exod 33:18), and Samuel, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening” (1 Sam 3:9).
• Stott: “I have always found it helpful to do as much of my sermon preparation as possible on my knees, with the Bible open before me, in prayerful study.
• R.W. Dale: “Work without prayer is atheism; and prayer without work is presumption.”
4. Isolate the Dominant Thought of the Text.
• Every text has a main theme, an overriding thrust.
• A sermon is not a lecture, it aims to convey only one major message
• The congregation will forget details of the message, but they should remember the dominant thought, because all the sermon’s details should be marshaled to help them grasp its message and feel its power.
• Once the text’s principle meaning has been determined, express it in a ‘categorical proposition.’
• J.H. Jowett: “I have a conviction that no sermon is ready for preaching…until we can express its theme in a short, pregnant sentence as clear as a crystal. I find the getting of that sentence is the hardest, the most exacting and the most fruitful labor in my study…I do not think any sermon ought to be preached, or even written, until that sentence has emerged, clear and lucid as a cloudless moon.”
• Ian Pitt-Watson: “Every sermon should be ruthlessly unitary in its theme.”
• Don’t by-pass the discipline of waiting patiently for the dominant thought to disclose itself. You have to be ready to pray and think yourself deep into the text, even under it, until we give up all pretensions of being its master or manipulator, and become instead its humble and obedient servant.
5. Arrange Your Material to Serve the Dominant Thought
• The goal is not a literary masterpiece, but organization that enables the text’s main thrust to make its maximum impact.
- Ruthlessly discard irrelevant material
- Subordinate material to theme so that it illumines and supports it.
• Golden Rule for Sermon Outlines: Let each text supply its own structure. Let it open itself up like a rose to the morning sun.
• Be precise with your words. It is impossible to convey a precise message without choosing precise words.
• Words to use:
- Simple and Clear words. Ryle: “Preach as if you had asthma.”
- Vivid words. They should conjur up images in the mind.
- Honest words. Beware of exaggerations and be sparing in use of superlatives.
- C.S. Lewis: don’t just tell people how to feel, describe in such a way that people feel it themselves.
- Don’t use words too big for the subject.
6. Remember the Power of Imagination–Illustrate!
• Imagination: the power of the mind by which it conceives of invisible things, and is able to present them as though they were visible to others. (Beecher)
• Remember that humans have trouble grasping abstract concepts–we need them converted into pictures and examples.
• Exert your greatest effort for illustrations that reinforce and serve the dominant thought.
• Think of illustrations as windows that let in light on our subject and help people to more clearly see and appreciate it.
• Beware of illustrations that draw too much attention (to themselves instead of the subject) or which actually take people away from the main point.
7. Add Your Introduction
• It’s better to start with the body so that we don’t twist our text to fit our introduction.
• Stott: A good introduction serves two purposes. First, it arouses interest, stimulates curiosity, and whets the appetite for more. Secondly, it genuinely introduces the theme by leading the hearers into it.
• Don’t make the intro too long or too short. “Men have a natural aversion to abruptness, and delight in a somewhat gradual approach. A building is rarely pleasing in appearance without a porch or some sort of inviting entrance.”
8. Add Your Conclusion
• Conclusions are more difficult. Avoid endlessly circling and never landing. Avoid ending too abruptly.
• A true conclusion goes beyond recapitulation to personal application. (Not that all application should wait till the end–the text needs to be applied as we go along.)
• Nevertheless, it is a mistake to disclose too soon the conclusion to which we are going to come. If we do, we lose people’s sense of expectation. It is better to keep something up our sleeve. Then we can leave to the end that persuading which, by the Holy Spirit’s power, will prevail on people to take action.
• Call the congregation to act! Our expectation as the sermon comes to an end, is not merely that people will understand or remember or enjoy our teaching, but that they will do something about it. If there is no summons, there is no sermon!
• The precise application of your sermon depends on the character of the text. The dominant thought points us to how people should act in response. Does the text call to repentance or stimulate faith? Does it evoke worship, demand obedience, summon to witness, or challenge to service? The text itself determines the particular response we desire.
• Consider the composition of your congregation. It is good to let your mind wander over the church family and ask prayerfully what message God might have for each from your text. Consider their unique circumstances, weaknesses, strengths and temptations.
9. Write Down Your Sermon
• Don’t take too long to get to this stage! Get something on paper, don’t endlessly noodle on vague notes (this is my temptation).
• Writing obliges you to think straight.
10. Edit it Again
• View hitting your time goal (40-45 minutes) as just as essential to its overall effectiveness as anything else you do. People will take more away if you say less.
• Ruthlessly cut the unneeded and extra. Look for places where you can be more concise.
• Err on the side of cutting things–especially long quotes.
11. Pray over Your Message
• Use the 30 minutes before you leave for church to pray over your message.
• Stott: “We need to pray until our text comes freshly alive to us, the glory shines forth from it, the fire burns in our heart, and we begin to experience the explosive power of God’s Word within us.”