Sunday, December 30, 2012
By The Very Rev. Dr. Donald P. Richmond
Over the past number of years increased attention has been given to evangelization. Originally rooted in the Roman Catholic Church, other denominations have also sought to re-present the gospel of Christ in ways that are far more comprehensible to modern / postmodern culture. Anglicans have also sought to re-form the ancient faith in ways that are far more palatable or pertinent.
These efforts are not entirely bad, although many are manifestly misguided. Just the other day I was reviewing a jurisdictional publication whose newest energies targeted building "Celtic" communities. Before this, and continuing, the renewal of worship (worship with "relevance") has been emphasized. Similarly, although striking a different note, the Inaugural Assembly of ACNA featured Dr. Rick Warren and his "missional" approach.
Other examples abound. Almost everyone today seeks to jump on the "missional" bandwagon, obviously overlooking at least three fundamental issues: (1) Evangelism is not a new idea, it is a gospel imperative, (2) Programs do not accomplish the purpose of God, and (3) By emphasizing programs above prayer we place the cart before the horse.
When reading about such efforts, and many others like them, I am often reminded of Hebrews 6:3 where the anonymous author tells us that we must do these things, but it is well past the time when we should have grown up and moved on (Hebrews 5: 12 - 6: 3). And it is indeed well past the time that we should have moved on by moving back into the patterns - priorities, principles and practices - that God has revealed.
In my opinion, our misconstrued "missional" emphasis is simply "elementary" teaching that has been long neglected. What Christian does not know that the Great Commandment and Great Commission are our priorities in life, priorities given by God and quite natural to those who are genuinely "alive in Christ?"
In order to move on we must return to our biblical and theological foundations. These are very briefly noted in Acts 2: 42. On the day of Pentecost, and shortly thereafter, the church was built upon four priorities: Apostolic Teaching, Prayer, Fellowship, and the Breaking of Bread. Each of these will be briefly commented upon.
Recent efforts to return to full orbed catechetical instruction and formation among North American Anglicans are commendable. Our Prayer Book, in both its structure and substance, is a catechetical masterpiece that is firmly rooted in apostolic teaching. It is to this apostolic teaching (centered in Christ and empowered by the Holy Spirit) we must become and remain faithful. Programs do not build the church, the Paraclete does. Strategies do not enlarge our borders, the Scriptures and Spirit do. More often than not programs and strategies are shallow human substitutes for biblical fidelity, theological integrity, prolonged waiting and patient prayer. Bibles, not busy-ness or business, build churches.
The primitive church was built upon prayer. Prayerfully waiting upon the Spirit, and being enflamed for service, the early church proclaimed the "good news" of Jesus Christ both efficiently and effectively. They had no program beyond "waiting on God."
Their strategy was decisively spiritual. When the Spirit spoke, they spoke. Where the Spirit moved, they moved.
Anglicans are rooted in prayer, or at least should be. We practice what has been called (I believe by the late Rev. Dr. Robert Crouse) "Prayer Book Spirituality." If we are not people of prayer, we are not truly Anglicans. If we are not people of prayer, there may be cause to question whether we are even Christians. If we build houses apart from sustained supplication we build upon a Babel foundation. "Unless the LORD builds the house, they labor in vain who build it."
As such, I believe that it is imperative that we Anglicans return to our Book of Common Prayer, to free prayer, to ejaculatory prayer, to sustained prayer, to warfare prayer, to prayer that sweats blood. In order to build churches we must build ourselves. It is my challenge to every Anglican, especially clergy, to return to our Daily Offices and an hour a day of simply waiting upon God. No prayer, no power. No Spirit, no success.
Community is critical to effective gospel communication. We come from and are made for community. In my soon to be released article, "Orange County or New Testament Evangelism?," I write: "We have our small groups, our cell groups, our fellowship groups, our accountability groups, our gregarious groupings of genteel gropers who so desperately want to "feel" good. And these are not entirely bad, but they are barely a beginning. What we really need, however, is deep fellowship. Fellowship is far more radical and far more personal. Fellowship is found when we practice commonality, community, and communalism..." (Daily Press, 2013). Are Anglicans truly building fellowships or are we simply hankering after Celtic, Benedictine, Saddleback, or other forms of well-meaning but often ill-informed substitutes? I truly "get" these efforts. I am myself Benedictine and believe that St. Benedict's Rulehas a great deal to teach us. I have been associated with a monastic community for almost a quarter of a century, and this association has enriched my life. I value George G. Hunter's The Celtic Way of Evangelism. I "see" the need for creating fellowship. But, in spite of "getting" and "seeing" this need, I often baulk at how we conceive and seek to create these communities. Any community building without the caritas of commonality and communalism is ill-conceived.
Any informed reader will note that these four focuses, culminating in the Breaking of Bread, suggest that we must truly become liturgical communities, Eucharistic communities. Although much could and has been said about this topic, suffice it to say that a liturgical and Eucharistic community lives its lifeafter the Service of Worship has ended and the Benediction has been given. The Breaking Bread community that builds the church is the broken hearted community that limps through life along with and among others.
The Breaking Bread community does not seek to artificially create effective means of evangelism because, when liturgy and Eucharist are lived, it naturally emerges. In such a community, the Liturgy of the Word becomes the proclamation of the Gospel, the Liturgy of the Sacrament becomes the promulgation of sacrificial living, the Anamnesis becomes the radical re-presentation of life giving incarnation and the Epiclesis becomes the center point for ministry in, through and by the Holy Spirit. In short, this type of community becomes and behaves as the "altar of the world." The so called "New Evangelization" and our "missional" emphasis is nothing new. It is, in fact, ancient. It is biblical, spiritual, mandated by God and an imperative placed on every believer. But we must build God's way, not our own.
The Very Reverend Doctor Donald P. Richmond, a Priest-Oblate with the Reformed Episcopal Church and Order of Saint Benedict, is a widely published author, poet, and monastic cartoonist.
Special to Virtueonline www.virtueonline.org
December 29, 2102
Tuesday, December 25, 2012
Wednesday, December 19, 2012
|Archbishop Stanley and Mama Beatrice - John Macdonald amd me seated nearby|
I have returned from my short but satisfying trip to Uganda for the enthronement of Bishop Stanley Ntagali as Archbishop of the Church of the Province of Uganda. story here (includes a link at the end of the story to the text of Abp Duncan's sermon given at the enthonement service) I left Pittsburgh fro NYC and then Amsterdam. At Schiphol airport in Amsterdam Friday morning I met up with Trinity professor John Macdonald and then Archbishop Bob and Nara Duncan, bishops John (and Meg) Guernsey, Bill Thompson and Neil Lebhar. Arriving in Entebbe at midnight on Friday after almost 20 hours in the air, we collapsed into our living quarters at the Namirembe guest house in Kampala. Saturday was a down day in which I delivered the new laptop computer and the suitcase of clergy shirts and vestments to Archbishop Stanley's able American assistant, the Rev Alison Barfoot, Throughout the day I chatted most of the time with new Bishop of the Horn of Africa and former TSM prof Grant LeMarquand, John Macdonald, John and Meg Guernsay, Neil Lebahr and Bill Thompson. It was great to swap church stories, recount the road to realignment and laugh and have fun. John Macdonald, Deb Carr, SAMS missionary Janine LeGrand, who is working in Masindi Uganda, and I had a nice dinner at an Indian restaurant in Kampala.
|St Paul's Cathedral, Namirembe Hill Saturday AM before service|
Saturday was followed by a full day on Sunday for the enthronement activities. Sunday began with arrival at St Paul's Cathedral on Namirembe Hill at 8:45 AM. The service began one hour later and lasted 4.5 hours yet it was never boring. There were at least 8 Archbishops/Primates or their representatives, about 40 Ugandan bishops, 5 ACNA/CANA bishops and a handful of English and other African bishops in the procession. The were no TEC bishops vested or other TEC clergy introduced during the service. The Primus of Scotland David Chillingworth was a surprise visitor-- he being the leader of a more liberal Anglican Church. It was good for him to hear the other side (non TEC) of the current situation.
|President of Uganda Museveni addressing congregation|
The service included addresses by the outgoing Archbishop and charismatic leader Henry Luke Orombi, the new Archbishop, the Archbishop of York John Sentamu and President Museveni of Uganda; the sermon by our own Archbishop Duncan and at least 50 introductions including the Rev "Debbie" Carr of SAMS. I never have heard a better, more heartfelt sermon from my bishop -- and I have heard many before! A highlight was Abp Duncan leading the congregation of 3,000 in the singing of the anthem of the East African Revival praise chorus Tukutendereza Yesu. listen here
|(l to r) ACNA bishops Neil Lebhar, John Guernsey and Bill Thompson|
|Former Archbishops Nkoyoyo and Orombi flank newly enthroned Archbishop Ntagali|
|Processing out - John Macdonald and I observe|
Monday we drove out to Mukono to see Uganda Christian University and after a very well done presentation by the Vice Chancellor, the Rev Dr John Senyoni, toured the campus --- especially impressive was the new library and new science building. When Trinity professor Stephen Noll assumed the role of Vice Chancellor in 2001 there were about 250 students -- today there are over 12,000. How's that for growth!
We returned in enough time to pack, check out and drive to the airport for dinner and departure. Our dinner with the 8-10 of us that traveled to Uganda on he same flight plus Alison Barfoot and her assistant Susan Morris was a wonderful time of reflection, satisfaction and thanksgiving. Thus ended my time in Uganda. The 20 hours of travel back to Pittsburgh completed my endeavor. Thanks be to God and to you for it all.
Note: All pictures (except the photo of UCU) courtesy of the Rev Canon Dr Alison Barfoot, Assistant for International Affairs to the Archbishop of the Church of the Province of Uganda.
|Main Administration Building at Uganda Christian University|
Note: All pictures (except the photo of UCU) courtesy of the Rev Canon Dr Alison Barfoot, Assistant for International Affairs to the Archbishop of the Church of the Province of Uganda.
Wednesday, December 12, 2012
by Rick Warren
As you know, people will show up at your church for Christmas that won’t show up any other time during the year. Here are three ways to help them see the importance of Christmas –
Remind them that they need a rescuer. Sheep who are lost can’t save themselves. If a sheep’s rescue is completely dependent upon itself, he’s a lost cause. He needs a rescuer. People do too. Lost in the pretty Christmas cards, festive parties and frantic gift-buying is the fact that Christmas is, first and foremost, a rescue mission. The Bible says humanity is enslaved to sin. Those without a relationship with Jesus desperately need Him to rescue them from that sin. Without Jesus, they truly have no hope.
Help them see what Jesus says about their deepest needs. When people show up at your church this Christmas they’re coming with many needs. Many have been crushed by the world around them. They’ve lost marriages, children, jobs—and hope. Only Jesus can recover what they’ve lost. Like the coin that the woman lost in Luke 15, they can’t help themselves—and often they don’t really know they’re lost. But like the woman in the story, their Heavenly Father is searching unceasingly for them.
Connect them with their Heavenly Father. Like the prodigal son, we all need to be connected to our Heavenly Father. Many of the unchurched who will visit your church this Christmas won’t believe God will accept them for who they are. The truth is, no matter what they’ve done, who they’ve hurt or how they’ve been treated, God loves them immensely. He loves them enough to send His Son so He can have a relationship with them.
Jesus loved lost people. He loved spending time with them. He went to their parties. From the Gospels it is obvious that Jesus enjoyed being with seekers far more than being with religious leaders. He was called the “friend of sinners.” (Luke 7:34)
Take the cue from the Good Shepherd in Luke 15 and let your church be all about the one stray sheep this Christmas.
Sunday, December 9, 2012
Writing to the Philippians, Paul says, “He who has begun a good work in you will perfect it to the end” (Phil. 1:6). Therein is the promise of God that what He starts in our souls, He intends to finish. So the old axiom in Reformed theology about the perseverance of the saints is this: If you have it—that is, if you have genuine faith and are in a state of saving grace—you will never lose it. If you lose it, you never had it.
We know that many people make professions of faith, then turn away and repudiate or recant those professions. The Apostle John notes that there were those who left the company of the disciples, and he says of them, “Those who went out from us were never really with us” (1 John 2:19). Of course, they were with the disciples in terms of outward appearances before they departed. They had made an outward profession of faith, and Jesus makes it clear that it is possible for a person to do this even when he doesn’t possess what he’s professing. Jesus says, “This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me” (Matt. 15:8). Jesus even warns at the end of the Sermon on the Mount that at the last day, many will come to Him, saying: “Lord, Lord, didn’t we do this in your name? Didn’t we do that in your name?” He will send them away, saying: “Depart from Me, you workers of iniquity. I never knew you” (Matthew 7:23). He will not say: “I knew you for a season and then you went sour and betrayed Me. No, you neverwere part of My invisible church.” The whole purpose of God’s election is to bring His people safely to heaven; therefore, what He starts He promises to finish. He not only initiates the Christian life, but the Holy Spirit is with us as the sanctifier, the convictor, and the helper to ensure our preservation.
I want to stress that this endurance in the faith does not rest on our strength. Even after we’re regenerated, we still lapse into sin, even serious sin. We say that it is possible for a Christian to experience a very serious fall, we talk about backsliding, we talk about moral lapses, and so on. I can’t think of any sin, other than blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, that a truly converted Christian is not capable of committing.
We look, for example, at the model of David in the Old Testament. David was surely a man after God’s own heart. He was certainly a regenerate man. He had the Spirit of God in Him. He had a profound and passionate love for the things of God. Yet this man not only committed adultery but also was involved in a conspiracy to have his lover’s husband killed in war—which was really conspiracy to murder. That’s serious business. Even though we see the serious level of repentance to which David was brought as a result of the words of the prophet Nathan to him, the point is that David fell, and he fell seriously.
The apostle Paul warns us against having a puffed-up view of our own spiritual strength. He says, “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:12). We do fall into very serious activities. The Apostle Peter, even after being forewarned, rejected Christ, swearing that he never knew Him—a public betrayal of Jesus. He committed treason against His Lord. When he was being warned of this eventuality, Peter said it would never happen. Jesus said, “Simon, Simon, Satan would have you and sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you, so that when you turn, strengthen the brothers” (Luke 22:31).Peter fell, but he returned. He was restored. His fall was for a season. That’s why we say that true Christians can have radical and serious falls but never total and final falls from grace.
I think this little catchphrase, perseverance of the saints, is dangerously misleading. It suggests that the perseverance is something that we do, perhaps in and of ourselves. I believe that saints do persevere in faith, and that those who have been effectually called by God and have been reborn by the power of the Holy Spirit endure to the end. However, they persevere not because they are so diligent in making use of the mercies of God. The only reason we can give why any of us continue on in the faith is because we have been preserved. So I prefer the term the preservation of the saints, because the process by which we are kept in a state of grace is something that is accomplished by God. My confidence in my preservation is not in my ability to persevere. My confidence rests in the power of Christ to sustain me with His grace and by the power of His intercession. He is going to bring us safely home.
Friday, December 7, 2012
Sunday, December 2, 2012
I think that of all the five points of Calvinism, limited atonement is the most controversial, and the one that engenders perhaps the most confusion and consternation. This doctrine is chiefly concerned about the original purpose, plan, or design of God in sending Christ into the world to die on the cross. Was it the Father’s intent to send His Son to die on the cross to make salvation possible for everyone, but with the possibility that His death would be effective for no one? That is, did God simply send Christ to the cross to make salvation possible, or did God, from all eternity, have a plan of salvation by which, according to the riches of His grace and His eternal election, He designed the atonement to ensure the salvation of His people? Was the atonement limited in its original design?
I prefer not to use the term limited atonement because it is misleading. I rather speak of definite redemption or definite atonement, which communicates that God the Father designed the work of redemption specifically with a view to providing salvation for the elect, and that Christ died for His sheep and laid down His life for those the Father had given to Him.
THE REDEMPTION OF SPECIFIC SINNERS WAS AN ETERNAL
OF GOD…ACCOMPLISHED BY THE ATONING WORK OF
CHRIST. —R.C. SPROUL
One of the texts that we often hear used as an objection against the idea of a definite atonement is 2 Peter 3:8–9: “But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” The immediate antecedent of the word any in this passage is the word us, and I think it’s perfectly clear that Peter is saying that God is not willing that any of us should perish, but that all of us should come to salvation. He’s not speaking of all mankind indiscriminately; the us is a reference to the believing people to whom Peter is speaking. I don’t think we want to believe in a God who sends Christ to die on the cross and then crosses His fingers, hoping that someone will take advantage of that atoning death. Our view of God is different. Our view is that the redemption of specific sinners was an eternal plan of God, and this plan and design was perfectly conceived and perfectly executed so that the will of God to save His people is accomplished by the atoning work of Christ.
This does not mean that a limit is placed on the value or the merit of the atonement of Jesus Christ. It’s traditional to say that the atoning work of Christ is sufficient for all. That is, its meritorious value is sufficient to cover the sins of all people, and certainly anyone who puts his or her trust in Jesus Christ will receive the full measure of the benefits of that atonement. It is also important to understand that the gospel is to be preached universally. This is another controversial point, because on the one hand the gospel is offered universally to all who are within earshot of the preaching of it, but it’s not universally offered in the sense that it’s offered to anyone without any conditions. It’s offered to anyone who believes. It’s offered to anyone who repents. Obviously the merit of the atonement of Christ is given to all who believe and to all who repent of their sins.
By R C Sproul
In historic Reformation thought, the notion is this: regeneration precedes faith. We also believe that regeneration is monergistic. Now that’s a three-dollar word. It means essentially that the divine operation called rebirth or regeneration is the work of God alone. An erg is a unit of labor, a unit of work. The word energy comes from that idea. The prefix mono- means “one.” So monergism means “one working.” It means that the work of regeneration in the human heart is something that God does by His power alone—not by 50 percent His power and 50 percent man’s power, or even 99 percent His power and 1 percent man’s power. It is 100 percent the work of God. He, and He alone, has the power to change the disposition of the soul and the human heart to bring us to faith.
In addition, when He exercises this grace in the soul, He brings about the effect that He intends to bring about. When God created you, He brought you into existence. You didn’t help Him. It was His sovereign work that brought you to life biologically. Likewise, it is His work, and His alone, that brings you into the state of rebirth and of renewed creation. Hence, we call this irresistible grace. It’s grace that works. It’s grace that brings about what God wants it to bring about. If, indeed, we are dead in sins and trespasses, if, indeed, our wills are held captive by the lusts of our flesh and we need to be liberated from our flesh in order to be saved, then in the final analysis, salvation must be something that God does in us and for us, not something that we in any way do for ourselves.
GOD’S GRACE IS SO POWERFUL THAT IT HAS THE CAPACITY TO OVERCOME OUR NATURAL RESISTANCE TO IT. —R.C. SPROUL
However, the idea of irresistibility conjures up the idea that one cannot possibly offer any resistance to the grace of God. However, the history of the human race is the history of relentless resistance to the sweetness of the grace of God. Irresistible grace does not mean that God’s grace is incapable of being resisted. Indeed, we are capable of resisting God’s grace, and we do resist it. The idea is that God’s grace is so powerful that it has the capacity to overcome our natural resistance to it. It is not that the Holy Spirit drags people kicking and screaming to Christ against their wills. The Holy Spirit changes the inclination and disposition of our wills, so that whereas we were previously unwilling to embrace Christ, now we are willing, and more than willing. Indeed, we aren’t dragged to Christ, we run to Christ, and we embrace Him joyfully because the Spirit has changed our hearts. They are no longer hearts of stone that are impervious to the commands of God and to the invitations of the gospel. God melts the hardness of our hearts when He makes us new creatures. The Holy Spirit resurrects us from spiritual death, so that we come to Christ because we want to come to Christ. The reason we want to come to Christ is because God has already done a work of grace in our souls.
Without that work, we would never have any desire to come to Christ. That’s why we say that regeneration precedes faith.
I have a little bit of a problem using the term irresistible grace, not because I don’t believe this classical doctrine, but because it is misleading to many people. Therefore, I prefer the term effectual grace, because the irresistible grace of God effects what God intends it to effect.
Saturday, December 1, 2012
The Reformed view of election, known as unconditional election, means that God does not foresee an action or condition on our part that induces Him to save us. Rather, election rests on God’s sovereign decision to save whomever He is pleased to save.
In the book of Romans, we find a discussion of this difficult concept. Romans 9:10–13 reads: “And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls—she was told, ‘The older will serve the younger.’ As it is written, ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.’” Here the Apostle Paul is giving his exposition of the doctrine of election. He deals with it significantly in Romans 8, but here he illustrates his teaching of the doctrine of election by going back into the past of the Jewish people and looking at the circumstances surrounding the birth of twins—Jacob and Esau. In the ancient world, it was customary for the firstborn son to receive the inheritance or the patriarchal blessing. However, in the case of these twins, God reversed the process and gave the blessing not to the elder but to the younger. The point that the Apostle labors here is that God not only makes this decision prior to the twins’ births, He does it without a view to anything they would do, either good or evil, so that the purposes of God might stand. Therefore, our salvation does not rest on us; it rests solely on the gracious, sovereign decision of God.
GOD DOES NOT FORESEE AN ACTION OR CONDITION ON OUR PART THAT INDUCES HIM TO SAVE US. —R.C. SPROUL
This doesn’t mean that God will save people whether they come to faith or not. There are conditions that God decrees for salvation, not the least of which is putting one’s personal trust in Christ. However, that is a condition for justification, and the doctrine of election is something else. When we’re talking about unconditional election, we’re talking in a very narrow confine of the doctrine of election itself.
So, then, on what basis does God elect to save certain people? Is it on the basis of some foreseen reaction, response, or activity of the elect? Many people who have a doctrine of election or predestination look at it this way. They believe that in eternity past God looked down through the corridors of time and He knew in advance who would say yes to the offer of the gospel and who would say no. On the basis of this prior knowledge of those who will meet the condition for salvation—that is, expressing faith or belief in Christ—He elects to save them. This is conditional election, which means that God distributes His electing grace on the basis of some foreseen condition that human beings meet themselves.
Unconditional election is another term that I think can be a bit misleading, so I prefer to use the term sovereign election. If God chooses sovereignly to bestow His grace on some sinners and withhold His grace from other sinners, is there any violation of justice in this? Do those who do not receive this gift receive something they do not deserve? Of course not. If God allows these sinners to perish, is He treating them unjustly? Of course not. One group receives grace; the other receives justice. No one receives injustice. Paul anticipates this protest: “Is there injustice on God’s part?” (Rom. 9:14a). He answers it with the most emphatic response he can muster. I prefer the translation, “God forbid” (v. 14b). Then he goes on to amplify this response: “For he says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion’” (v. 15). Here the Apostle is reminding his reader of what Moses declared centuries before; namely, that it is God’s divine right to execute clemency when and where He desires. He says from the beginning, “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy.” It is not on those who meet some conditions, but on those whom He is pleased to bestow the benefit.