Thursday, November 30, 2006

Christians and divorce

Reported at Christianity Today:

"...[E]vangelical women tend to be happier in their marriages than other women, particularly when both the wife and the husband attend church on a regular basis. This idea that Christians are just as likely to divorce as secular folks is not correct if we factor church attendance into our thinking. Churchgoing evangelical Protestants, churchgoing Catholics, and churchgoing mainline Protestants are all significantly less likely to divorce.

How much less likely? I estimate between 35 and 50 percent less likely than Americans who attend church just nominally, just once or twice a year, or who don't attend church at all. It is true that people who say they've had a born-again experience are about as likely to divorce as people who are completely secular. But if you look at this through the lens of church attendance, you see a very different story...."

Source: Christianity Today: What Married Women Want

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

"To free all those who trust in Him..."

Although decorations have been on sale and carols have been playing in the stores for weeks already, we are only now entering the Advent season. Wilfred McClay, at Touchstone Magazine, reminds us that the Christmas lesson is of Light piercing darkness, and if we forget the darkness, we forget the significance of the event.
"...Our Christmas carols are among the most precious shared possessions of our fragmenting, fraying culture, and for all that we abuse them and demean them, they seem to remain imperishable.

This year, somehow it's been God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen that has stuck in my brain, and particularly these words, in the first verse: 'To save us all from Satan's power/ When we were gone astray.' We move through these sibilant words so quickly and rhythmically. I know I always have. And yet how plainly those few words sketch in a somber background, a whole universe of presuppositions without which the song has a very different, and diminished, meaning....

We are constantly reminded to 'keep Christ in Christmas' and to remember 'the reason for the season.' And of course we should. But, if I may be permitted to put it this way, we must also keep Satan in Christmas, and not skip too lightly over the lyrics that mention him.

For he and the forces he embodies are an integral part of the story. It utterly transforms the way we understand Christmas, and our world, when we also hold in our minds a keen awareness of the darkness into which Christ came, and still must come, for our sake. Later in God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen the visiting angel tells the shepherds in the field that Christ has come 'To free all those who trust in him/ From Satan's power and might.'

....[T]he 'comfort and joy' of which the song speaks are not merely outbursts of seasonal jollity.

They bespeak the ecstatic gratitude of captives and cripples who recognize that, in and through Christ, the entire cosmos has been transformed, and their lives have been made new. Nothing can ever be the same again...."
Source: Touchstone Archives: God Rest Ye Merry

God rest ye merry, gentlemen, let nothing you dismay,
Remember Christ our Savior was born on Christmas Day;
To save us all from Satan’s power when we were gone astray.

Refrain
O tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy;
O tidings of comfort and joy.

“Fear not, then,” said the angel, “Let nothing you afright
This day is born a Savior of a pure Virgin bright,
To free all those who trust in Him from Satan’s power and might.”

Refrain
O tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy;
O tidings of comfort and joy.

Science as religion

At a recent conference:
"...According to the New York Times, the controlling idea was that "science needs to take on an evangelical role, vying with religion as teller of the greatest story ever told."

The atheistic and agnostic scientists in attendance were more open and aggressive than ever. ...Richard Dawkins, Oxford professor and author of the subtly titled The God Delusion, declared: 'I am utterly fed up with the respect that we - all of us, including the secular among us - are brainwashed into bestowing on religion.' Steven Weinberg, Nobel Laureate and member of the prestigious University of Texas physics department, instructed: 'Anything that we scientists can do to weaken the hold of religion should be done and may in the end be our greatest contribution to civilization.' Another scientist said: 'Let's teach our children from a very young age about the story of the universe and its incredible richness and beauty. It is already so much more glorious and awesome - even comforting - than anything offered by any scripture or God concept I know.'

Neil deGrasse Tyson, director of New York City's Hayden Planetarium, fretted that "God on the brain" would stand in the way of the love of discovery, and displayed pictures of deformed newborns in order 'to disabuse the audience of any idea that an intelligent, loving creator could be behind our existence,' ... The beautiful rings of Saturn were offered by another scientist in implicit contrast to the unfortunate newborns. But the nature that these scientists worship caused both these things, so why should we admire their godless universe anymore than the one with God? Wouldn't you know it, the old problem of evil gets in their way too, only they don't seem to realize it.

I take that back. Weinberg does, and has famously pronounced: 'It is hard to realize that this all [i.e., life on Earth] is just a tiny part of an overwhelmingly hostile universe. It is even harder to realize that this present universe has evolved from an unspeakably unfamiliar early condition, and faces a future extinction of endless cold or intolerable heat. The more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also seems pointless.' In what grade shall we teach children that part of the 'religion'?

So, scientists want to make science into God in order to satisfy man's need for the transcendent that he now foolishly finds in religion...."

Source: Phi Beta Cons on National Review Online

Apologetics

Via Between Two Worlds:

Free online lectures on apologetics by Douglas Groothuis, professor of philosophy at Denver Seminary.

Source: Between Two Worlds

Who really cares

From The Chronicle of Philanthropy [via Arts and Letters], a report on who actually gives to those in need - it isn't necessarily those who talk most loudly about injustice:
In Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth About Compassionate Conservatism (Basic Books), Arthur C. Brooks finds that religious conservatives are far more charitable than secular liberals, and that those who support the idea that government should redistribute income are among the least likely to dig into their own wallets to help others....

"This book is a call to action for the left, not a celebration of the right," Mr. Brooks says.....

His initial research for Who Really Cares revealed that religion played a far more significant role in giving than he had previously believed. In 2000, religious people gave about three and a half times as much as secular people - $2,210 versus $642. And even when religious giving is excluded from the numbers, Mr. Brooks found, religious people still give $88 more per year to nonreligious charities.

He writes that religious people are more likely than the nonreligious to volunteer for secular charitable activities, give blood, and return money when they are accidentally given too much change. "There is not one measurably significant way I have ever found in which religious people are not more charitable than nonreligious people," Mr. Brooks says. "The fact is, if it weren't for religious people in your community, the PTA would shut down."

Byron R. Johnson, a sociology professor and co-director of the Institute for Studies of Religion at Baylor University, says he recently gathered data that show similar results - such as high levels of civic engagement among religious people - while assembling a report on faith in America that was released in September.

"It was not surprising to me that the lil ol' farmer in South Dakota outgave people in San Francisco," Mr. Johnson says. "But I think to the everyday citizen, this might strike them as counterintuitive."

Mr. Brooks ... writes that households headed by a conservative give roughly 30 percent more to charity each year than households headed by a liberal, despite the fact that the liberal families on average earn slightly more.

... Most of the difference in giving among conservatives and liberals gets back to religion. Religious liberals give nearly as much as religious conservatives, Mr. Brooks found. And secular conservatives are even less generous than secular liberals. [emphasis added]

At the outset of his research, Mr. Brooks had assumed that those who favor a large role for government would be most likely to give to charity. But in fact, the opposite is true.

..."In essence, for many Americans, political opinions are a substitute for personal checks," Mr. Brooks writes.

Mr. Brooks says the data show that religious people, on average, give 54 percent more per year than secular people to human-welfare charities. Some of those charities may be religiously affiliated, but their work is focused on charity and not religion, he says.

In his book, Mr. Brooks examines giving among the poor. When looking at households with equivalent income, the working poor give three times as much as welfare recipients.

... Near the end of the book, Mr. Brooks lays out the case that philanthropy is as good for the donor as for the receiver, citing data showing that giving makes one happier and healthier....

Source: The Chronicle, 11/23/2006: Charity's Political Divide

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The suicide of a believer

Via Intellectuelle and InternetMonk I found a sermon delivered on the occasion of the funeral of a Christian who committed suicide. The entire funeral message is at byFaith Online. The "theological virtues" are faith, hope and love. Suicide has always been considered a manifestation of the opposite of hope - despair - hopelessness - inability to trust in God. In some traditions a suicide cannot be buried in consecrated ground. This passage comes toward the end of the message. The entire sermon is well worth reading.
Listen to me, what Petros did was wrong. But what he did for the last twenty-five years did not get him into the kingdom of God, and what he did almost two weeks ago will not take him from the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God is secured by another - the One who came into the darkness of this world to give himself for those who are poor in Spirit. This is the Gospel: He who was rich, made himself poor so that through his poverty we might inherit the Kingdom of God. This same Jesus who came preaching of the kingdom of God is the One who came to die in our behalf to pay the debt for our sins. He emptied himself of the privileges and glory of heaven, so that through his poverty, the heavenly riches of his righteousness would be ours. The reason that those who are so corrupted that they can be guilty of selfishness, cowardice, insensitivity and sin - even the murder of themselves, and can yet inherit the kingdom of God, is because Jesus Christ died to pay the penalty for our sins, and he rose to intercede for us before the Father on the basis of his righteousness rather than our accomplishments. When we depend on what he provides by acknowledging our poverty and trusting in his provision, then ours is the kingdom of heaven.

Isaiah 57:15, "For thus says the high and exalted One Who lives forever, whose name is Holy, I dwell on a high and holy place, and also with the contrite and lowly of spirit in order to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite."

Now I know the questions that you still are asking yourselves - I have asked these questions of myself also:

"Yes, God can save sinners of all sorts: those who falter, and fall, and even kill. But the ones that he saves are those who repent. And, since Petros took his own life, and there was no opportunity to repent from that sin, then can he still be eligible for the kingdom of heaven?" I acknowledge to you that, despite the depth of remorse that Petros expressed for his actions in the letter read to this congregation, his repentance is inadequate. But whose repentance is ever adequate? God does not forgive us because we adequately confess our sin, but because Jesus fully covers our sin when we trust in him.

But you are also thinking, "Did Petros really trust in Christ?" "Yes," you will acknowledge, "Petros certainly was poor in spirit. But did he really trust in Jesus? If he had, could he have done this thing?" Ultimately these questions will be answered in the halls of heaven, but I will tell you what I think. Petros did not preach the Gospel all those years, or love us so well falsely. We would have known it. Instead, he got sick in mind and heart for reasons that I do not fully understand. That sickness made him very poor in spirit, and he lost his hold on what was best in him and for him. But I do not think that the strength of his grasp is what counts but rather the strength of the One who grasps him. The love of Jesus Christ is more than strong enough to compensate for any weakness of faith in us.
Source: byFaith Online

Comfortable religion

At Touchstone, James M. Harrison comments on The Bike Pastor's Comfortable Religion:

"... Maybe I've missed something along the way, but when did providing people with recreation become the purpose of the Church?

When did Christ change his call from 'Take up your cross and follow me' to 'Come to this place that we don't really want to call a church, and recreate'? When did the nature of the Lord's Day change from being a time when the people of God gather together for God-centered worship and the preaching of his Word to, as this church's worship leader describes it, 'an event that even the most anti-religious person can come [to] and feel comfortable'?

'Feel comfortable.' How is an unbeliever to feel comfortable sitting there in the midst of a peculiar people who are offering worship to a holy God with whom, according to the Scripture, he is at enmity? How is an 'anti-religious' person to feel comfortable in a place where the gospel being proclaimed is to him foolishness and a stumbling block?

Of course, as Paul writes these things in 1 Corinthians, he does put forth a third option. To the unbeliever, the gospel will be foolishness, or a stumbling block, or the power of God unto salvation. But for Paul, whether unbelievers heard the gospel as foolishness, or a stumbling block, or the power of God, had nothing to do with whether or not they were comfortable. It had nothing to do with their felt needs, either. The result of the gospel, Paul believed, was dependent upon the work of God in an individual's life.

It had to be this way, Paul says, so that issues would not get confused. Has someone professed Christ as the result of the genuine work of God in his life? Or is he here among the people of God because of the recreation? That was a real concern for Paul. And his method of addressing that concern was to make sure that nothing stood in competition with the proclamation of the word of God.

I'm not so sure that Paul would be very enthused about a 'recreational' church."
[the article]

Source: Touchstone Archives: Recreational Sect

"Napoleon Dynamite"

Although I enjoyed the film, it never occurred to me that it might convey a Christian[!] message [or any message at all]:

Napoleon Dynamite is a humorous but touching critique of the inevitable loneliness and meaninglessness of individualism when it is stripped of the context of genuine community. Its message is consistent with a Christian moral anthropology, that human beings are not intended to "fly solo," but made to live in a community marked by the vulnerability and sacrifice of love. [the review]

Source: Touchstone Archives: Napoleon Blown Apart

"The Nativity Story" again

HolyCoast reviews the new film, opening this weekend:
As one of their blogger-reviewers, I received an invitation from Grace Hill Media to attend a private screening of New Line Cinema's new movie, The Nativity Story. Two thumbs way, way up. I'll never look at a nativity set the same way again.

Over the years Hollywood has tried many times to make movies of Biblical stories, though there hasn't been a serious attempt for a long time. Most previous Hollywoodized versions of the Bible (for instance The Greatest Story Ever Told, The Robe, or King of Kings) tended to take the humanity out of Jesus or other Biblical characters. They always seemed to have this weird far-away look in their eyes and a funny glow around their head. The Nativity Story does a wonderful job of reminding the viewers that the people we read about in the Biblical story were real people living real lives who found themselves in extraordinary circumstances. The movie explores the dilemma they were in and how they likely had to deal with it.

The story begins with Mary's life as a young girl living and working in her family's home. In many Hollywood productions, Mary is played by a much older actress than the real Mary, who was probably only 15 or so years old. The Mary of this movie is a young girl, and Joseph a little older man. The casting seems right for the story. In fact, the casting throughout the movie is done well.

The movie is not just a dry retelling, but includes a lot of scenes of the day-to-day life in Israel at that point in history, and some humor as well. The Magi sort of become the comic foils of the movie, though their role is very serious as well. There is a lot of interesting information about their place in the nativity story, and the convergence of planets which gave rise to the Christmas star which the wise men followed.

We know that Joseph and Mary came up from Nazareth to Bethlehem, but I think we forget that it was a journey of nearly 100 miles, all of it on foot. The film gives a good representation of what that trip would have been like and the sights they might have seen along the way.

The movie takes an interesting approach in dealing with angels. The same angel appears to Mary, Joseph and the shepherds, though I couldn't get away from the fact that he looked just like country singer Eddie Rabbit from the 70's. In addition, only one angel appears to the shepherds even though the scripture describes a "heavenly host" (not "the" heavenly host).

The only time the picture takes on a bit of an old time Hollywood mystical appearance is when the baby Jesus is born and the star(s) cast a beam of light directly into the stable. But even in that scene, I was struck by the sight of Mary giving birth with only Joseph and some animals in attendance. We forget what it must have been like for people in that day.

There are some moments which could have involved graphic violence, but thankfully the filmmakers chose to use implied violence and no blood rather than graphic scenes that would be much more difficult to watch. It's not Passion of the Christ, that's for sure.

Bottom line - go see it, and if possible go see it this opening weekend. Opening weekends are very important in the Hollywood world in helping convince them that this kind of film is worth making. A slow open could make movie companies hesitant to try something of this quality again.

Take your unchurched friends as well. I think this film could make a significant impact on the lives of nonbelievers. It's that well done.
Source: HolyCoast.com: The Nativity Story

Monday, November 27, 2006

"The Language of God"

Stephen M. Barr, in a review of The Language of God by Francis S. Collins in the December First Things, writes:
It was in medical school that his [Collins'] atheism suffered a blow: "I found the relationship [I] developed with sick and dying patients almost overwhelming." The strength and solace so many of them derived from faith profoundly impressed him and left him thinking that "if faith was a psychological crutch...it must be a very powerful one." His "most awkward moment" came when an older woman, suffering from a severe and untreatable heart problem, asked him what he believed. "I felt my face flush as I stammered out the words 'I'm not really sure.'" Suddenly it was brought home to him that he had dismissed religion without ever really considering - or even knowing - the arguments in its favor. How could someone who prided himself on his scientific rationality do that? He was deeply shaken and felt impelled to carry out an honest and unprejudiced examination of religion. Attempts to read the sacred scriptures of various religions left him baffled, however, so he sought out a local Methodist minister and asked him point-blank "whether faith made any sense." The minister took a book down from his shelf and handed it to him. It was C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity.

Lewis gave Collins a simple, though crucial, insight: God is not a part of the physical universe and therefore cannot be perceived by the methods of science. Yet God speaks to us in our hearts and minds, both in such "longings" for the transcendent as Collins had himself experienced and in the sense of objective right and wrong, "the Moral Law."...
Barr later writes:
It is interesting that Collins, a biologist, should take most of his "evidence for belief" from physics. ... One notes, by contrast, that some of the biologists who are most outspoken in their atheism have come from a background in zoology rather than the physical sciences. It may be that the scientists most susceptible to crude materialism are those who know the least about matter.
The review is not yet available online. It is not entirely uncritical, but makes the case that Collins' book is a real contribution to the Science v. Religion debate.

Burning Bibles in Uzbekistan

Mere Comments quotes from a report about the persecution of Christians:

Following a 27 August raid on a Baptist church in the southern town of Karshi, two visiting Baptists were given massive fines on 25 October of 438 US Dollars each for participating in unregistered religious worship, while four local church members were given smaller fines, Protestant sources told Forum 18 News Service. The court ordered Bibles and hymnbooks confiscated during the raid to be burnt, a regular practice with literature confiscated during raids despite official denials. [more]

Source: Mere Comments: Burning Bibles in Uzbekistan

December, 2006 Sabbath Recorder Online


The December, 2006, Sabbath Recorder is available online here. It includes several interesting articles about Seventh Day Baptists and music - now and in the past.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

"The Nativity Story"

Mark D. Roberts reviews the upcoming film The Nativity Story:
"... Today I want to note a few salient points that make The Nativity Story such a fine movie.
  1. The movie is faithful to the biblical accounts of Jesus's birth....
  2. The movie provides a creative, compelling, and historically-sensible picture of life suggested by but not specifically mentioned in Scripture...
  3. The movie doesn't offer up too much religious schmaltz....
  4. The Nativity Story dramatizes aspects of the Christmas story that I had not before considered....
  5. The Nativity Story does not turn its major characters into glow-in-the dark, other-worldly superman and superwoman....
  6. The Nativity Story includes some stunning scenery and wonderful music....
My Recommendations First of all, be sure to see this movie! ...But, second, don't only see the film, get others to see it! If you're a pastor, let your church know about this movie. If you're a youth leader, tell your kids. ...There is nothing "preachy" about this film, nothing that would offend a non-believer...." [the entire review]
His full review elaborates on each of the points above.

11/28 Albert Mohler has seen the film and also approves.

Best children's books

World magazine lists various people's suggestions for the best children's books [subscription required]:
Howard & Roberta Ahmanson Based in California, Howard is president of Fieldstead and Company, a private philanthropy. Roberta is a writer who works with Howard. They have one son: "Our idea of a good time is to sit and read together. We have read many of these books out loud together."
A Wind in the Door, Madeleine L'Engle (Roberta's favorite)
The Silver Chair, C.S. Lewis (Howard's favorite)
Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
Harriet the Spy, Louise Fitzhugh (a children's book not for children)
The Lost Princess, George McDonald

Mark & Acacia Bergen The Bergens live in Seattle and have one born child and another due next month; Mark is a WORLD reporter.

Picture Books
Blueberries for Sal, Robert McCloskey
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, Judi Barrett
A Light in the Attic, Shel Silverstein
Love You Forever, Robert N. Munsch
One Fish Two Fish, Red Fish Blue Fish, Dr. Seuss

Chapter Books
Prince Caspian, C.S. Lewis
The Phantom Tollbooth, Norton Juster
Half Magic, Edward Eager
Henry Huggins, Beverly Cleary
James and the Giant Peach, Roald Dahl
Etc.

The Episcopal Church is in big trouble II

Things just get worse for Episcopalians:
According to a Religion News Service story, the new presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church has warned the Diocese of San Joaquin not to try to leave the Episcopal Church. Katharine Jefferts Schori told its bishop, the genial and courageous John-David Schofield,
"Our forbears did not build churches or give memorials with the intent that they be removed from the Episcopal Church. Nor did our forbears give liberally to fund endowments with the intent that they be consumed by litigation."
One would think she'd have someone at the Episcopal Church headquarters to say "Don't go there" when she starts writing like this. Strictly speaking, she is right in claiming what she does, but this is not an argument an advocate of approving sodomy and marrying homosexual people who is rather vague on the exact purpose of believing in Jesus Christ should raise.

The obvious response is: "Our forebears did not build churches or give memorials with the intent that they be run by people like Katharine Jefferts Shori and used to marry people of the same sex and employ heretics and skeptics."
I am often grateful for congregational polity:
"We believe in the priesthood of all believers and practice the autonomy of the local congregation, as we seek to work in association with others for more effective witness." [emphasis added]

Thursday, November 23, 2006

"Between two worlds"

Between Two Worlds consistently has some of the most interesting commentary and links to some of the most interesting material. Today, among much else, it refers to an important question evangelicals will have to address as the next Presidential election approaches. Can evangelicals support a Mormon?
The discussions about Mormonism and Christianity are going to intensify rapidly in the next couple of years, especially if - as I suspect - Gov. Mitt Romney will be the GOP presidential nominee in 2008. Now is the time for Christian pastors, leaders, and teachers to bone up on the subject with a view toward instructing the church in answer to the inevitable questions that are going to arise. (This topic was a significant part of Hugh Hewitt's plenary address at ETS, where he suggested to the evangelical scholars in attendance that it would be a serious mistake for evangelicals to reject Romney because he is a Mormon--in part because the exact same premises will be used in arguments to exclude evangelicals from the public square. Hewitt also revealed that he is almost done writing a book on Romney.)

For an introduction to the history and beliefs of Mormonism, a helpful place to start reading might be Richard and Joan Ostling's
Mormon America: The Power and the Promise. Richard John Neuhaus recently reviewed it, and along the way he provides a helpful primer in his own right.
My own view is that the candidate's theology probably doesn't matter much. The important question is what the candidate will do when in office. Would a Mitt Romney advance policies with which I agree? His Mormonism is no more important in that regard than would be the religious commitments of any other candidate.

There are other posts today at Between Two Worlds about fearing God, not man, a video starring John Piper, Benny Hinn's behavior, a biography of Roger Nicole, a new book about Martin Luther, a new paper about the "emerging church," and so on. If you take the time to look in at it the site is very rewarding.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

A joyful and blessed Thanksgiving!

Freedom from Want, Norman Rockwell, 1943

Now thank we all our God, with heart and hands and voices,
Who wondrous things has done, in Whom this world rejoices;
Who from our mothers’ arms has blessed us on our way
With countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.

O may this bounteous God through all our life be near us,
With ever joyful hearts and bless├Ęd peace to cheer us;
And keep us in His grace, and guide us when perplexed;
And free us from all ills, in this world and the next!

All praise and thanks to God the Father now be given;
The Son and Him Who reigns with Them in highest Heaven;
The one eternal God, Whom earth and Heaven adore;
For thus it was, is now, and shall be evermore.
Mar­tin Rink­art, cir­ca 1636

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Atheism

From CQOD today comes this by Joy Davidman, the woman who later married C.S. Lewis. She describes paganism as at least interesting in contrast to atheism, which, she says, can be unconscious.
The old pagans had to choose between a brilliant, jangling, irresponsible universe, alive with lawless powers, and the serene and ordered universe of God and law. We modern pagans have to choose between that divine order, and the grey, dead, irresponsible, chaotic universe of atheism. And the tragedy is that we may make that choice without knowing it - not by clear conviction but by vague drifting, by losing interest in Him. A nominal deist will say: "Yes, of course there must be some sort of Force that created the galaxy. But it’s childish to imagine that It has any personal relation to me!" In that belief atheism exists as an undiagnosed disease. The man who says, "One God," and does not care, is an atheist in his heart. The man who speaks of God and will not recognize Him in the burning bush - that man is an atheist, though he speak with the tongues of men or angels, and appear in his pew every Sunday, and make large contributions to the church. Joy Davidman (Smoke on the Mountain [1955]

Monday, November 20, 2006

"The God who gave us life gave us liberty..."

In the October First Things, Michael Novak reviewed two books about religion and the American Founders. A section that is relevant to the discussion about the "wall of separation" and our current discussion about the BJC's understanding of American history:
NONETHELESS, THE MINDS of most of the Founders, even the least orthodox among them, had been formed by the Bible, and virtually all quoted from Scripture much more than they quoted from any other author. Even the least orthodox among them, such as Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin (the two outliers in this respect), wrote frequently of God, Judgment Day, and Providence. All held with the Declaration that all men “are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights,” and with Jefferson’s personal aphorism that “the God who gave us life gave us liberty at the same time.”

Consider that the opening words of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom announced quite starkly: “Whereas
Almighty God hath created the mind free . . . ” [emphasis added]

For Holmes and Meacham alike, the by-now conventional notion that the Founders were purely men of the Enlightenment does not satisfy the evidence. Yes, the Founders sometimes took up such themes as common sense and limited government and religious liberty in the language of Enlightenment thinkers. But they also strongly believed that, while conscience and religious liberty must be inviolable, and church and state ought to be separate, nevertheless, government still has the duty to support religion, by one method or another.

“Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure,” Washington wrote, the morals required for republican government depend, for most people, on religious cultivation.
[the rest]
Even the Deism believed by a few of the Founders isn't the same thing as atheism, humanism or even secularism.

Experience and reality

Ross Douthat reacts to a brain-scan study of people experiencing glossolalia, i.e. "speaking in tongues." He concludes:
I am ... consistently puzzled by the resistance, whether it's among my friends and neighbors or the Sam Harrises of the world, to any consideration of the notion that religious experience might be like most other widespread human experiences - which is to say, a response to something that's actually out there. Atheistically-inclined scientists and philosophers have all manner of complicated theories about how religious experience and beliefs sprang up in homo sapiens - maybe it's a useful mutation, maybe it's an accidental byproduct of a useful mutation, etc. Some of these theories feel like so much hand-waving, but some are at least plausible. On the other hand, the eye exists because of interactions with light, and the eardrum because of interactions with sound waves; romantic love may be "biochemically no different from eating large amounts of chocolate," as Al Pacino's devil would have us believe, but both the chocolate and the woman of your dreams are still realities, not just the product of your firing neurons. As soon as homo sapiens developed consciousness, we became conscious of (what seems to be) a numinous reality interwoven with our own; it's just possible, surely, that we started experiencing the numinous because it happens to be real. [emphasis added]
And, as C.S. Lewis wrote:
"If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world." [Mere Christianity]

Dawkins again

From James M. Kushiner at Mere Comments:
I usually manage to find something interesting to read while waiting in doctor's offices, even if I have to resort to something I put into my briefcase that day. This morning, I found something on the doctor's "coffee table" (of course, no coffee in sight). It was the recent issue of Time Magazine about "God versus Science" (He's against science?), and it featured a debate, of sorts, between Francis Collins, a Christian, and Richard Dawkins, an atheist evangelist.

I took notes (no laptop on hand):
Time: Could the answer [to what's behind the Universe] be God?

Dawkins: There could be something incredibly grand and incomprehensible and beyond our present understanding.

Collins: That's God.

Dawkins: Yes. But it could be any of a billion Gods. It could be God of the Martians or of the inhabitants of Alpha Centauri. The chance of its being a particular God, Yahweh, the God of Jesus, is vanishing small - at the least the onus is on you to demonstrate why you think that's the case.
If anyone has read Dawkins' latest best-selling evangelical tract for atheism, The God Delusion, perhaps you could tell me if Dawkins demonstrates why Jesus's claim to be God Incarnate should be rejected as resting on a vanishing small chance of being true.
Dawkins: [later] I don't see the Olympian Gods or Jesus coming down and dying on the Cross as worthy of that grandeur. They strike me as parochial. If there's a God, it's going to be a whole lot more incomprehensible than anything that any theologian of any religion has ever proposed.
Dawkins, here, I submit, is really making a theological argument, though I doubt he would admit it. What's worthy of grandeur? [The rest]

Idolatry

From the evangelical outpost:

Murder, theft, and adultery get all the press while idolatry has become the sin that dares not speak it name. Violations of the first commandment, however, are by far our most pervasive sin. In fact, it is often the root of sin. What sin cannot be traced back to our desire to put ourselves in God’s place, allowing us to rebel against our Creator with impunity?

Still, it is rather shocking to hear someone be unabashedly open about their idolatry as Bart Campolo, son of Tony Campolo, is in a recent article for
The Journal of Student Ministries [Note: the article has been removed from that site]:
Some might say I would be wise to swallow my misgivings about such stuff [like God's sovereignty, wrath, hell, etc.], remain orthodox, and thereby secure my place with God in eternity. But that is precisely my point: If those things are true, then God might as well send me to Hell. For better or worse, I simply am not interested in any God but a completely good, entirely loving, and perfectly forgiving One who is powerful enough to utterly triumph over evil. Such a God may not exist, but I will die seeking such a God, and I will pledge my allegiance to no other possibility because, quite frankly, anything less is not worthy of my worship.

Please, don’t get me wrong. I am well aware that I don’t get to decide who God is. What I do get to decide, however, is to whom I pledge my allegiance. I am a free agent, after all, and I have standards for my God, the first of which is this: I will not worship any God who is not at least as compassionate as I am.
[the rest]
"I have standards for my God" - He must be at least as good as I am. He seems to be saying that his standards are higher than the standards of the God Who is. The Greeks called this hubris and it is the original sin - putting yourself in the place of God - "my will - not His."

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Seventh Day Baptist Forums


A new location for Seventh Day Baptists to exchange information and opinions can be found at SDB Forums.

"A conversation on religion"

At the Washington Post website Albert Mohler states an Evangelical position about the possibility of dialogue among people of various faiths [and people of none]. Part of his statement:
No human (or humans) should claim a monopoly on truth. Indeed, evangelical Christians should be the very first to insist that only God holds a "monopoly" on truth. As for we mortals? No monopoly. What the philosophers call "epistemic humility" is incumbent on us all. With our finite minds, social limitations, and limited intelligence, we know less than the sum total of what we do not know. Confession of that fact is, as they say, good for the soul.

On the other hand, evangelical Christians must make clear our belief that God has in fact revealed himself to us through the gift of his self-revelation. Thus, we now know what we otherwise never could have known. Our knowledge of God and all things He has revealed are no tribute to our intelligence, but rather to God's love for us.

So, when evangelical Christians show up for conversation about the things that matter most, we show up as the people who believe that God has spoken truthfully to us in the Bible - and supremely in Jesus Christ. Do we believe that we possess a monopoly on truth? No. But we do believe that God has spoken, and that we must be faithful to his Word. In other words, we are making a claim that God has revealed himself in a way that gives us access to absolute truth. Furthermore - and here again we must be very honest - we believe that God has revealed himself in the Bible and in Jesus Christ in a way that is unique, definitive, particular, and universal in claim.
Mark Dever at Together for the Gospel remarks:
If you haven't had a conversation with a non-Christian lately, the various, largely hostile, responses to Al's simple statements will remind you of the climate we are in.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Paul Manuel: Forgiveness

God’s Forgiving Us and Our Forgiving Others
Dr. Paul Manuel
Rev. Paul Manuel is pastor of the German Seventh-Day Baptist Church in Salemville, PA. His Ph.D. is in Hebrew and Semitic Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
There is a common and unqualified assumption in Christian circles that the proper response to all personal offenses is to “forgive and forget” (“let bygones be bygones”), and that not to do so places one at risk of divine condemnation. As Jesus warned the disciples,
Matt 6:15 … if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
The immediate difficulty with such an assumption is that it holds the believer, who, Jesus says, must forgive all, to a higher standard than it holds God, who needs not forgive all. Several New Testament passages link or condition God’s forgiveness of the believer with the believer’s forgiveness of others, but is forgiveness completely one-sided and open-ended? Are there restrictions on what the believer can and should forgive? For the answer, we must look to more explicit passages.

First, it is necessary to understand the definition of the term “forgive.” The Hebrew and Greek words mean to release a person from guilt or punishment. Forgiveness is a legal (judicial) designation that eliminates the indebtedness of one party to another and, thereby, alters the status of their relationship. It includes both a remission of guilt and a restoration of fellowship.
Forgiveness is the wiping out of an offense from memory; it can be effected only by the one affronted. Once eradicated, the offense no longer conditions the relationship between the offender and the one affronted, and harmony is restored between the two.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Grace

From Christian Quotation of the Day, today:
Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God.
Psalm 42:11 [ESL]

As a man increases in moral strength of character, so his conscience becomes more sensitive; he realizes more keenly the distance that separates him from the ideal, and hence the weight of the feeling of guiltiness oppresses him ever more heavily. Growth in goodness does not, therefore, necessarily imply increased happiness, on the contrary, it may mean greater unhappiness. And his unhappiness increasing in proportion to the elevation of his ethical standards, a man's end is either Buddha or suicide if he knows no God; while if he knows God, it is despair or that conversion which, having sobbed away its tears on the Father's breast, thence derives ever new strength to fight the battle of life, sure of the final victory.
Heinrich Weinel (1874-1936), St. Paul, the Man and His Work [1906]
"Sure of the final victory":
"Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;
’Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home."
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Romans 5:1-5 [ESL]

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

"Christian" witness

Via Between Two Worlds, at Relevant Magazine, there is a painful description of destructive "witnessing." How much do you tip?
Sunday night at a restaurant in a small southern town—a formula that equates a post-apocalyptic battle zone....

Friday and Saturdays are probably just as busy as any Sunday night, however there is an intriguing dynamic that comes into play on Sunday. That dynamic is the “Christian table.”

....I ran around for the better part of an hour getting them dozens of teas, getting their kids another egg and wiping up where they had spilled their drinks because their parents were too into whatever it was they were talking about. They all split their checks, but they didn't sit in any kind of order; they were all scattered about and expected me to know without asking who was together and who was separate. On top of this they were rude and acted as though I was an annoyance to them, unless they needed something.

They didn't even leave 10 percent. And for a person who lives off of the income from tips, that hurt.

Normally, I'd be pretty angry if a 10-person group stiffed me like that, but not angry enough to write an article about it. However on this occasion due to the interesting circumstances, I feel it is necessary. Here's why:

When other servers got word that I had the "Church table" they all immediately patted me on the back and told me everything would be all right. My “non-Christian” co-workers automatically volunteered to help me out because they knew what was coming. They told me that I might as well not waste my time by trying hard at this table, because they were going to be rude and leave me next to nothing. The entire staff at the restaurant, including the manager on duty, had nothing but contempt for this group of people—the Church people—because time and again they come in and treat the staff like second-class citizens.
The greatest damage to the cause of the Kingdom is often done by those who profess loyalty to it.

"What's your favorite band?"

Books and Culture publishes a review of the work of Sufjan Stevens. My ignorance of his work parallels my indifference to much contemporary popular music - my enthusiasm tends to be reserved for the generation of Clapton and Dylan - which is also about the last time I paid much attention to "Christian" rock. What is "Christian rock"? And why?
What's your favorite band?" Youth pastors in evangelical churches from Anaheim, California, to Virginia Beach, Virginia, have been asking young people that question since Richard Nixon's famed meeting with Elvis in the Oval Office. Whenever teenagers answered with the Doors, Bon Jovi, Black Sabbath, or Run DMC, religious mentors steered their impressionable charges to sacred analogues: Resurrection Band, Barnabas, Stryper, Freedom of Soul. In the 1980s, popular Christian author J. Brent Bill created a "sounds like" music chart, an easy-to-use guide for those newly initiated into the Christian subculture. (It's the kind of tool Ned Flanders, the kind-hearted fundy on The Simpsons, would love to employ for his two sons, Rod and Todd.)

The relationship between so-called Jesus rock and secular music is as peculiar as it is fascinating. Since the Jesus People movement first swaddled the gospel in the tattered rags of the counterculture, Christian rock has grown steadily, inhabiting almost every niche in the splintered world of contemporary music. You want Christian death metal, Christian rap, Christian indie rock, Christian electronica? You got it. Part of the job of being a youth pastor today rests on being hip to the dozens of massive Christian rock festivals that take place around the country every summer, having a mental map of nearby Christian coffee houses and bookstores, and always being ready to usher teens into the safe world of Christian music.
The reviewers again raise some of the fundamental questions about "Christian rock." Is it about finding "safe" music for Christian youth? Is it a futile attempt to be "hip" or "cool" in an indifferent, secular world? Do we want a self-conscious message music [i.e. propaganda]? Or, as in any of the arts, would it be better if artists who are Christians simply allow the faith which should affect every part of life also inform their work?

The slippery slope

Once the killing of the human embryo, the fetus, and the partially born baby is allowed - why not the infant? Life will be so much easier if we do away with everyone who is inconvenient. If we abort those who are unwanted, disabled, a burden to society - why not kill them off after they are born? What stands in the way of retroactive abortion? Perhaps the Nazis were just ahead of their time as they eliminated "life unworthy of life" and "useless eaters." The Daily Mail [London] reports on the growing moral irrelevance of official Anglicanism:
The Church of England has broken with tradition dogma by calling for doctors to be allowed to let sick newborn babies die.

Christians have long argued that life should preserved at all costs - but a bishop representing the national church has now sparked controversy by arguing that there are occasions when it is compassionate to leave a severely disabled child to die.

And the Bishop of Southwark, Tom Butler, who is the vice chair of the Church of England's Mission and Public Affairs Council, has also argued that the high financial cost of keeping desperately ill babies alive should be a factor in life or death decisions.

The shock new policy from the church has caused outrage among the disabled.

A spokeswoman for the UK Disabled People's Council, which represents tens of thousands of members in 140 different organisations, said: "How can the Church of England say that Christian compassion includes killing of disabled babies either through the withdrawing or withholding of treatment or by active euthanasia?

"It is not for doctors or indeed anyone else to determine whether a baby’s life is worthwhile simply on the grounds of impairment or health condition." [emphasis added]
Update [11/15] A clarification from NRO:
Wesley Smith e-mails:
[I]t did NOT endorse mercy killing. That was bad reporting. It endorse[d] the right to stop life-sustaining treatment. Where the AC [Anglican Church] is substantially different from the Catholic Church is that the CC keeps the focus exclusively on the patient and his or her intrinsic dignity and needs. The AC said that money could be a factor in the decision making.

This is wrong, in my view. But... [it did] not actually endorsed infanticide.
But the "professionals" still decide whether a life is "worth living."

Monday, November 13, 2006

"Be still, and know..."

“Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!”
Psalm 46:10[ESV]


At Christianity Today, a review of a new book on the discipline of contemplation:
"The bright evangelical mind— always so active and in pursuit — must leap great hurdles of spiritual and intellectual activity to shut itself down and be still. Theologian Martin Laird offers a road map to this practice of silence and God-awareness with warmth and reason.

Like many trained in Christian contemplative practice, Laird is a Roman Catholic, of the Order of St. Augustine - those charged by Pope John Paul II to be "teachers of the interior life." Laird, an associate professor in theology and religious studies at Villanova University, obeys the charge with grace and clear instruction.

In his compact primer, he charts the path leading to silent surrender and "watchfulness" before God. As such, the book's great contribution might be its reminder that in our noisy, chaotic, thinking world, God is not somebody we need to flag down or acquire...."

"SDB Exec" Blog


The denominational executives have started their own blog called SDB Exec. It is linked at the Seventh Day Baptist site, but can also be found directly at http://sdbexec.blogspot.com/ It already has posts from Gordon Lawton, Kevin Butler, Morgan Shepard and Andrew Camenga. Welcome to blogging!

Social conservatives and Democrats

World Magazine has several posts on its blog this morning about the recent election. Evangelical and socially conservative voters behaved differently this time than in some recent elections, partly because some of the Democratic candidates who defeated Republicans aren't typical Democrats. Many of them won't fit comfortably with the dominant liberal and secular strain of their party. For instance:
"...North Carolina’s Heath Shuler, who won his House bid and began his victory speech by saying: 'I’d like to thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.'"
Marvin Olasky writes:
"'I'm a lifelong Baptist and vote for Democrats. One reason? Democrats are serious about alleviating poverty.' That's what North Carolina basketball coaching legend Dean Smith said in newspaper ads before the election, and he's partly right. Partly, because Democrats, although often serious, have been ineffective—and how serious are those who repeatedly choose what sounds good over what is good?

Now congressional Democrats have to govern. Democrats for Life wants the party to change its abortion position and hopes that Bob Casey Jr. will lead the way—but how will Democrats for Death respond? Will Democratic leaders take seriously evangelical concerns, or will they be like those who last year held a seminar at the University of California-Berkeley titled,
'I Don't Believe in God, But I Know America Needs a Spiritual Left'?

It will be fascinating to watch Democrats try to make their tent bigger without alienating their Christophobic base. I hope they succeed, because America could use two parties that respect biblical belief, so that evangelicals aren't captive to one...."
And they quote from an interview published at Salon:
"National Association of Evangelicals officer Richard Cizik, explains why evangelicals crossed party lines on Nov. 7 - voting in Virginia, for example, against gay marriage but for Democrat James Webb: 'We want trustworthy leaders who will tell the truth,' Cizik said. 'We don't need to go like supplicants to the political parties.'"
And, in that Salon article:
"Talk to most devout Evangelicals, no matter how Republican-red their blood runs, and chances are they'll tell you that Jesus would never be a member of a political party, and that their faith, not politics, leads their vote....

According to the Associated Press, one-third of Evangelical voters supported Democrats this year, up more than 10 percent from 2004. And while many election-watchers predicted that sex scandals -- be they Mark Foley's or Ted Haggard's -- would keep Evangelicals away from the polls, they turned out in even higher numbers than they did to reelect Bush. Twenty-four percent of voters this year were born-again, up 1 point from 2004. And unlike in recent elections, Americans who attend weekly religious services voted in almost equal numbers for Democratic and Republican candidates."

Sunday, November 12, 2006

All truth is God's truth

In A Statement of Evangelicals and Catholics Together: "That They May Have Life" there is found this about the ability of reason to discern truth. Perhaps more importantly there is the affirmation that God is the source of all truth, whether we receive it from His revelation or find it by the study of His creation.
"Between Evangelicals and Catholics there have been long-standing differences on the capacities of human reason. To put it too briefly, Evangelicals (and the Protestant traditions more generally) have accented that human reason has been deeply corrupted by sin. Catholics, on the other hand, while recognizing that human reason has been severely wounded by sin and is in need of healing, have held a higher estimate of reason’s capacity to discern truth, including moral truth. We, as Evangelicals and Catholics together, affirm that the knowledge of God necessary for eternal salvation cannot be attained by human reason alone apart from Divine revelation and the Holy Spirit’s gift of faith’s response to Jesus Christ the only Savior....

We also affirm together that human reason, despite the consequences of sin, has the capacity for discerning, deliberating, and deciding the questions pertinent to the civil order. Some Evangelicals attribute this capacity of reason to “common grace,” as distinct from “saving grace.” Catholics typically speak of the “natural law,” meaning moral law that is knowable in principle by all human beings, even if it is denied by many (Romans 1 and 2).... Both faith and reason are the gift of the one God. Since all truth has its source in Him, all truth is ultimately one, although our human perception of the fullness of truth is partial and inadequate (1 Corinthians 13:12). Thus do we invite those who disagree, including those who do not share the gift of faith in Christ, to join with us in attempting to move beyond “culture wars” to a reasonable deliberation of the right ordering of our life together." [emphasis added]

Friday, November 10, 2006

A new Bible

I just got a new Bible. It is an edition of the English Standard Version [picture on the left].

My first personal Bible was a Revised Standard Version [RSV], given to me at my promotion from Miss Burdick's Sabbath School class. That was the year I learned that the quick way to find Psalms was to open the Bible in the middle. I also learned that if I found the middle of the back half I would be brought to the beginning of the New Testament. The RSV was the version used as pulpit Bible in our church and the responsive readings in the hymnbook came from that version too. So I was introduced to the Scriptures by the revision [several generations removed] of the great Authorized, or King James Version. When we memorized Scripture, though, we sometimes still learned the KJV - that is how I learned the 23rd Psalm, the 100th Psalm, and the Lord's Prayer.

While I was in high school the Living Bible was published. It wasn't a new translation, but a paraphrase. It was enormously popular with the Christians I knew in youth group and at camp. It was written in colloquial English and very easy to understand. Soon after came the Good News Bible, from the American Bible Society - another contemporary English version, this time a translation but with a very simplified vocabulary. These efforts did a lot of good, I'm sure, but I wasn't satisfied. I liked the eloquence and rhythms of the KJV tradition. If I was going to read a modern translation, I wanted it to have some of those qualities.

I became a Lord of the Rings fanatic in high school. When I learned that J.R.R. Tolkien had been involved in the production of the English edition of The Jerusalem Bible [1966], that was enough to persuade me to get one. I liked it a lot and still read it with pleasure. Later when evangelical scholars translated the New International Version [NIV], everyone I knew I used it, and so did I. My scholarly friends informed me that it was very accurate and it is very readable. But, unlike the RSV and the Jerusalem Bible, its language didn't strike me as distinguished. It was great for Bible study, but not especially good for public worship.

Which brings me to the Bible I have been using the most for the last few years - the
English Standard Version [ESV]. It is based on the original Revised Standard Version, and retains its dignity. It works well in worship, and I'm told it is reliable. It certainly reads well. It seems to me that it retains the virtues of the older English translations and none of their difficulties.

There are many people better equipped than I to recommend a version of the Bible - more consistent Bible students and actual scholars. And of the making of translations there will, seemingly, be no end. But I like this version, perhaps because I have come full circle, back to a version very like the one I first read.

Hypocrisy

Robert T. Miller defines hypocrisy. It isn't what a lot of people think it is.

A man is not a hypocrite because he violates a moral norm in which he sincerely believes. President Clinton, I am sure, believes that adultery is wrong, and he violated the norm against it in his dalliance with that woman, Ms. Lewinsky; but this made him an adulterer, not a hypocrite. Similarly, decent parents think they ought to be patient with their children, but an overworked mother who snaps at her child at the end of a long day is guilty of impatience, not hypocrisy. Violating norms we sincerely accept does not make us hypocrites. If it did, hypocrisy would not be a peculiar kind of wrongdoing but a concomitant of all wrongdoing.

Wrongdoing like that in my examples is not hypocrisy because it flows from weakness, not malice. Contrary to our sincere intentions and wishes, we sometimes do things we know to be wrong. Immediately after doing them, we acknowledge, at least to ourselves, that we have done wrong. We wish we had not done wrong, and we intend to do better next time. Unless we live in one of the stricter religious communities, we do not announce these faults to the world; rather, for various reasons—some good, some bad, depending on the circumstances—we may even conceal them. All this makes us weak, not hypocrites. When President Clinton concealed his affair with Ms. Lewinsky, he may have perjured himself or obstructed justice, but he still did not become a hypocrite.

Hypocrisy is a much worse form of moral wrongdoing. It’s a certain kind of lying, and so can be done only consciously and intentionally. In particular, a man’s moral character comes from what he takes as his final end in life, his understanding of the human good, and the hypocrite is a man who dissembles about what he thinks this good is.
The hypocrite pretends to accept and live by one set of values when, in fact, he accepts and lives by quite different ones. Thus a man who professes belief in the norm against adultery and seeks a reputation as a family man but all the while keeps a mistress, relishing his time with her and intending to keep her indefinitely, or at least until he can replace her with a yet more sexually attractive woman—this man is a hypocrite. So too the corporate executive who cultivates a reputation for honesty and lectures the business community on ethical issues but meanwhile engages in a scheme of financial fraud over many years, hoping to keep his ill-gotten gains when he retires to Bimini. Such people pretend to live in accordance with values that they do not hold and have no desire to hold. Their whole lives are lies, lies about what they think the human good is. That species of lying is hypocrisy. [emphasis added]

The Episcopal Church is in big trouble

Albert Mohler has been listening to the new Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church USA. She seems to be departing from the historic faith of her tradition and from Christian orthodoxy. Here are some excerpts from The Thirty-Nine Articles, as affirmed by the Church of England and the American Episcopal Church:
As established by the Bishops, the Clergy, and the Laity of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America, in Convention, on the twelfth day of September, in the Year of our Lord, 1801.

I. Of Faith in the Holy Trinity.
There is but one living and true God, everlasting, without body, parts, or passions; of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness; the Maker, and Preserver of all things both visible and invisible. And in unity of this Godhead there be three Persons, of one substance, power, and eternity; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.

II. Of the Word or Son of God, which was made very Man.
The Son, which is the Word of the Father, begotten from everlasting of the Father, the very and eternal God, and of one substance with the Father, took Man's nature in the womb of the blessed Virgin, of her substance: so that two whole and perfect Natures, that is to say, the Godhead and Manhood, were joined together in one Person, never to be divided, whereof is one Christ, very God, and very Man; who truly suffered, was crucified, dead, and buried, to reconcile his Father to us, and to be a sacrifice, not only for original guilt, but also for actual sins of men....

X. Of Free-Will.
The condition of Man after the fall of Adam is such, that he cannot turn and prepare himself, by his own natural strength and good works, to faith; and calling upon God. Wherefore we have no power to do good works pleasant and acceptable to God, without the grace of God by Christ preventing us, that we may have a good will, and working with us, when we have that good will.

XI. Of the Justification of Man.
We are accounted righteous before God, only for the merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ by Faith, and not for our own works or deservings. Wherefore, that we are justified by Faith only, is a most wholesome Doctrine, and very full of comfort....

XVIII. Of obtaining eternal Salvation only by the Name of Christ.
They also are to be had accursed that presume to say, That every man shall be saved by the Law or Sect which he professeth, so that he be diligent to frame his life according to that Law, and the light of Nature. For Holy Scripture doth set out unto us only the Name of Jesus Christ, whereby men must be saved.
These sections of the Thirty Nine Articles could be affirmed by most orthodox Christians, as could most of the rest of the document. Now read the statements of the new Presiding Bishop as quoted [and commented on] at www.AlbertMohler.com:
In an interview with CNN's Kyra Phillips, Bishop Schori was asked, "So what happens after I die?" Her answer:
What happens after you die? I would ask you that question. But what's important about your life, what is it that has made you a unique individual? What is the passion that has kept you getting up every morning and engaging the world? There are hints within that about what it is that continues after you die.
There is nothing even remotely Christian about that response. This woman is now the leader of the Episcopal Church in America, and she can do no better then this?

It gets worse.

Here is her answer when TIME magazine asked, "Is belief in Jesus the only way to get to heaven?":
We who practice the Christian tradition understand him as our vehicle to the divine. But for us to assume that God could not act in other ways is, I think, to put God in an awfully small box.
Jesus Christ is now only "our vehicle to the divine?" Her astounding answer to that question led an interviewer with National Public Radio to ask, "What are you: a Unitarian?" Here is the exchange:
Robin Young [NPR]: TIME asked you an interesting question, we thought, "Is belief in Jesus the only way to get to heaven?" And your answer, equally interesting, you said "We who practice the Christian tradition understand him as our vehicle to the divine. But for us to assume that God could not act in other ways is, I think, to put God in an awfully small box." And I read that and I said "What are you: a Unitarian?!?" [laughs]

What are you– that is another concern for people, because, they say Scripture says that Jesus says he was The Light and The Way and the only way to God the Father.

Bishop Schori: Christians understand that Jesus is the route to God. Umm– that is not to say that Muslims, or Sikhs, or Jains, come to God in a radically different way. They come to God through… human experience.. through human experience of the divine. Christians talk about that in terms of Jesus.

Robin Young: So you're saying there are other ways to God.

Bishop Schori: Uhh… human communities have always searched for relationship that which is beyond them.. with the ultimate.. with the divine. For Christians, we say that our route to God is through Jesus. Uhh.. uh.. that doesn't mean that a Hindu.. uh.. doesn't experience God except through Jesus. It-it-it says that Hindus and people of other faith traditions approach God through their.. own cultural contexts; they relate to God, they experience God in human relationships, as well as ones that transcend human relationships; and Christians would say those are our experiences of Jesus; of God through the experience of Jesus.

Robin Young: It sounds like you're saying it's a parallel reality, but in another culture and language.

Bishop Schori: I think that's accurate.. I think that's accurate.
A "parallel reality" to the Gospel of Christ? This is a direct refutation of the Gospel.
[there is more]
One reason the main-line churches are in decline is that they can provide no reason to belong. The Anglican tradition is a great tradition. The Book of Common Prayer is magnificent. It is a pity that American Episcopalians no longer seem to believe the words.