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3.29.2007    |    Pesky Piskies
The Episcopal Church is easy to make fun of. Easy to do, but it's akin to shooting a tuna in a barrel. Not very sporting. But Episcopalians have brought much of this grief on themselves over the past few decades. Today they are perhaps best known as a collection of guilty but affluent white liberals. Which provides the sharpest possible contrast with the vast majority of the world's Anglicans, who tend to be poor, theologically conservative, and not white.

In different words, there are some good reasons why erstwhile strongholds of Anglicanism such as Truro Church here in Virginia may soon place themselves under the pastoral care of a Nigerian bishop. It's not because they've changed. It's because the "leadership" of the denomination appears to be more interested in making political and social policy points than in preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The new presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, Katharine Jefferts Schori, is what one might consider a liberal's liberal. What does this mean in practice? Let me defer to a voice far greater than mine, Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, who, in his at once subtle and not-so-subtle way wrote about Schori thus (linked here; but subscription may be required):
In another interview, with Time magazine...[Schori] is asked, “What will be your focus as head of the U.S. church?” Answer: “Our focus needs to be on feeding people who go to bed hungry, on providing primary education to girls and boys, on healing people with AIDS, on addressing tuberculosis and malaria, on sustainable development. That ought to be the primary focus.” It’s an updated version of Our Lord’s Great Commission in Matthew 28:19-20, in a manner of speaking. But perhaps preaching the gospel and saving souls is included in a secondary focus, so to speak.
This is, in a nutshell, the liberal churches' disease: they treat the symptoms, but ignore the root cause. Which is, of course, salvation.

Look, one need not be a Christian, although it is the best available confession. To be a Christian, one must do but one important thing: confess Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Everything else will flow from this. And, if you are a member of a confessing church, which the Episcopalians claim to be, this is all you should be about as a church.

What, say you? What about charity, helping the helpless? Jesus was quite clear on these things, and they are, of course, what a Christian must do. But they are not sufficient. Any atheist can do good. But churches must not become mere social welfare agencies. The instant they cease to preach the gospel of salvation through Jesus Christ is the instant they lose any relevance as a Christian church.

It appears that the Episcopalians are now led by someone who is not, to be gentle, standing in the gap and preaching the gospel to the unsaved.


3.21.2007    |    "equally made in the image of God"
The quotation is from Albert Mohler's March 2, 2007 controversial article, "Is Your Baby Gay? What If You Could Know? What If You Could Do Something About It?". The bottom line for a Christian is how does one deal with a sinner. The answer, for Dr. Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, is, as it should be for all Christians: exactly the same, across the board.

From Dr. Mohler's article, some context:
The biblical basis for establishing the dignity of all persons -- the fact that all humans are made in God's image -- reminds us that this means all persons, including those who may be marked by a predisposition toward homosexuality. For the sake of clarity, we must insist at all times that all persons -- whether identified as heterosexual, homosexual, lesbian, transsexual, transgendered, bisexual, or whatever -- are equally made in the image of God.
It is interesting that the so-called liberals of today are so eager to pass off any and all sins as being "hardwired" in our DNA. A man is a violent and recidivist criminal? It's in his genes.

So too does it appear that homosexuality is in the genes. Stated differently, it appears that those who have sexual attraction to those of the same sex, what used to be called in less politically correct times "sexual deviancy," may truly not be able to help themselves.

Except for the not-small matter of not sinning. Even liberals would not advocate tolerating a violent rapist on the loose, just because he "can't help himself." Apparently, however, homosexual behavior is simply not considered a sin, simply because "that's how God made us." Well, God made the rapist and the torturer; He even, in His wisdom, made mosquitos. Perhaps the Almighty was having a bad day...

But the essence of what a Christian should expect from any sinner is this: go and sin no more. This is too simple for the liberal media, and we (or at least Dr. Mohler, with whom I stand on this issue) are accused of all sorts of heinous bigotry because we label sin as sin. And wrong.

Turning now to a self-described man who lacks faith, Harold Meyerson, whose column today is snarkily titled "God and His Gays." Meyerson is blind to an essential of the Christian faith, that we are all made in God's image, but that we also all sin.

Meyerson, likely along with many of those of the liberal side of the spectrum, just doesn't seem to get that while God may have made us with free will, which caused the Fall, we are not damned because of that choice made by Adam and Eve (I'm being alegorical here; we are all Adam or Eve). We are saved by the grace of Christ, and our Lord wasn't averse to hanging out with sinners. Sinners who are told to "go, and sin no more."

This last is the key; the essence that is lacking in the columnist's understanding. Rather, in a bit of Christian-bashing, he writes:
That sidesteps, however, the conundrum that a gay person may follow the same God-given instincts as a straight person -- let's assume fidelity and the desire for church sanctification in both cases -- and end up damned while the straight person ends up saved. Indeed, it means that a gay person's duty is to suppress his God-given instincts while a straight person's duty is to fulfill his.
"God-given instincts" can be blamed for any and all things. But this is wrong. God made us in His image, but we are clearly not perfect. So we sin. Sin, by definition, turns us away from God. God does not call us to sin; we do that all by ourselves.

Salvation awaits those who are successful at turning towards God, and, by definition, turning away from sin. If that means not doing "what comes naturally" in this world, isn't that a small price to pay for ultimate union with God?

Oh, Harold Meyerson, in case you're reading this: "ultimate union with God" is another way of writing "saved."


   |    GodMen
I caught a snippet of GodMen this morning on the tube; my first reaction was, "oh crap, another Robert Bly-drum-beating escape mechanism for men who can't cope."

But I was curious, and found the website GodMen - When Faith Gets Dangerous. GodMen appears to be a hormonal reaction to the tameness and white-breadness that is church in America these days. Too many sappy praise songs; too much "love this, love that." And far too little of the fire and brimstone that is also part of who Jesus Christ was, and is.

Jesus, while incarnate, was a man. He ate; he drank wine; he defecated, sweat, and probably didn't smell too good. He probably had pimples when he was an adolescent, and likely had all of the normal urges that are the glory and the shame of our human species. Jesus, of course, unlike the rest of us, was able to restrain those urges.

Jesus was, as the dogma goes, fully human. He tasted everything, including, most importantly, death on the cross. And he faced it like a man among men. This appears to be what GodMen is all about.

Jesus may have been tender and mild, but he wasn't some first century mama's boy. He was a man who did not tolerate sin. He promised judgment against those who don't repent. And he was not above taking the lash to those who desecrated his Father's house.

Today's church, at least many of them, have lost sight of this masculine Jesus, and have subsituted a namby-pamby savior who is no role model for men. A feminized Christ who would never threaten anyone with hellfire.

This notion is enough to drive us all out of church. And this, maybe, is what GodMen is about -- having us remember why we joined in the first place: because of a man named Jesus who took a bullet (ok, a cross) in our stead.


3.04.2007    |    Pie in the sky or ham where I am
This is the false choice often posed by those who favor "social justice" (usual translation: Marxism) over evangelism and mission. Christians have, throughout our history, favored one or the other, sometimes resulting in bloodshed. But it's a false choice; one who knows Jesus Christ as Lord will, by definition, come to do that which is right. Which most definitely includes taking care of the least of our brothers and sisters.

One group that might be accused of erring on the "social justice" side, if you didn't know any better, is the Baptist World Alliance. BWA biggies hobnob regularly with such as Fidel Castro and Jimmy Carter, and, in the name of pushing for religious freedom, with government officials in places such as Communist China whose mission it is to control the fast-growing Christian churches.

But, if you've ever been to a BWA event, you may find out, rather quickly, that the emphasis is not on "social justice." It is on Jesus Christ as Lord. Period. One need not ponder long what Jesus would do, were he with us in the flesh today. He would tend to his flock, which is to say, each and every one of us.

What brings this up at all is the retirement bash for Dr. Denton Lotz last night. Dr. Lotz, General Secretary of BWA, has devoted his life to the cause of religious freedom. Which is to say, to the Baptist cause. Not that other denominations do not also advocate religious freedom. Rather, that the Baptists, from their beginnings in the 17th century, have been persecuted by the state, and by established churches. This tends to sharpen one's perspective, when you're on the wrong side of religious persecution. It is also the primary reason that I call myself a Baptist.

Take the time to read this statement on religious freedom by Dr. Lotz. As the Friends (Quakers) might say, "he speaks my mind."

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About this site and the author

Welcome. My name is John Luke Rich, (very) struggling Christian. The focus here is Christianity in its many varieties, its fussing and feuding, how it impacts our lives and our society, with detours to consider it with other faiths (or lack thereof).

Call this blog my way of evangelizing on the internet.

Putting it differently, we're only here on this earth a short time. It's the rest of eternity that we should be most concerned about. Call it the care and feeding of our souls.

I was born Jewish, and born again in Christ Jesus over thirty years ago. First as a Roman Catholic; now a Calvinist by persuasion and a Baptist by denomination. But I'm hardly a poster boy for doctrinal rigidity.

I believe that Scripture is the rock on which all Christian churches must stand -- or sink if they are not so grounded. I believe that we are saved by faith, but hardly in a vacuum. That faith is a gift from God, through no agency on our part -- although we sometimes turn a deaf ear and choose to ignore God's knocking on the door.

To be Christian is to evangelize. Those who think it not their part to evangelize perhaps haven't truly understood what our Lord told us in Matthew 28. We must preach the Gospel as best we are able. Using words if necessary.

Though my faith waxes and wanes, it never seems to go away. Sometimes I wish it would, to give me some peace of mind. But then, Jesus never said that walking with Him was going to be easy...

Final note: I also blog as Jack Rich on cultural, political and other things over at Wrong Side of the Tracks

Thanks for stopping by.