Thursday, July 24, 2008


I don't know about you, but this is freaky...the first is St. Benedict of Nursia, the second is Father Benedict Groeschel.

Friday, July 18, 2008

S.M. Hutchens' "A Note on Anthropological Modalism"

This is thick, but its a fascinating thought if you can get through it. From the Mere Comments website - "A Note on Anthropological Modalism":

In a recent Mere Comments posting I mentioned in passing that egalitarianism involves anthropological modalism. A friend wrote for clarification, asking me, “What is anthropological modalism and how is it related to the Egalitarian heresy?” This, for any who may have the same question, was my reply:

I am drawing an analogy here. A theological modalist effaces the critical distinctions between members of the Godhead by reducing the Persons to functions or modes of existence of a single member. Classically, under the influence of strict monotheism, the existence of a Son and Spirit were admitted, but they could only be "modes" of the existence of the one God--not the discrete personal existences (hypostases) recognized by Christian theology.

An egalitarian is an anthropological modalist who effaces the critical distinctions between man and woman by making the sexes into functions or modes of existence of the "human." The idea of humanness is thus made to serve a scheme in which the differences between the man and the woman, which include the priority that orthodox anthropology recognizes in the man, are subject to egalitarian reduction.

Because of the relation of God and man in Christ, any anthropological heresy also inescapably infects theology and becomes a theological heresy as well--although some egalitarians with more conservative instincts do not understand this or will not admit it. A Christ who is Human in the egalitarian sense cannot be Man in the orthodox sense, but is merely the apotheosis of the egalitarian ideal. He cannot be the head of the man as the man is the head of the woman as God is his own head; the ordinal relations of which the Apostle spoke, and in which the Church believes, are utterly broken on the egalitarian wheel. That is why egalitarianism is a heresy and no orthodox Christian can be an egalitarian.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Feast of St. Benedict of Nursia

Today is the feast of St. Benedict of Nursia, most famous for the "Rule of St. Benedict," which has had an incredible influence not just on monasticism, but on Western Christianity and, I would argue, western civilization itself.
What I have appreciated in the years since I was first exposed to Benedict's Rule was the necessity of discipline in Christian prayer. Prayer does not just happen, and it does not grow haphazardly. It is something that must be planned for and lived out. Of course, the Rule of St. Benedict is not terribly practical for most of us, though its underlying principles can find expression in many aspects of life outside the monastery. But I would suggest that a personal Rule, a personal discipline, is a magnificent way to progress in the Christian faith.
An ally in this venture would be Martin Thornton, who has included in his book "Christian Proficiency" an entire chapter devoted to developing a personal Rule. Here is what he says about the importance of a Rule:

"Rule" is a literal translation of the Latin word 'regula,' - rule, pattern, model, example - from which we derive 'Regular' as both noun and adjective. Both words are technical terms of ascetical theology associated with, but by no means exclusive to, St. Benedict, and they present...a problem...their meaning is not quite the same as that of common us. Rule, llike pattern, model, or system, is an essentially singular word, in some ways directly opposite to a list of "rules," and a 'Regular' Christian is one who "lives the Rule."
It implies status more than quality, efficiency more than keenness or brilliance; volunteers and conscripts might prove braver and more zealous than regular soldiers but they are unlikely to be more generally proficient.
Let it be said at once that the Rule is a help and not a hindrance, something liberating and not restrictive, expansive not burdensome, in accord with the freedom of the Christian spirit and absolutely opposed to 'legalism.' It is always the means to an end and never an end in itself...

A rule could be as simple as saying the Lord's Prayer a few times a day. It is not the amount, but our faithfulness to it. And if we are faithful, God will open up new doors and new revelation to us that will continue to draw us closer to Him. All we need do is take a small step, be faithful, and listen well.
May the Lord bless all his people through the example of St. Benedict, and through a life of devotion and service, modeled by Benedict, may we all come to the rewards of a righteous life.

Afternoon Prayer Buddies

Thought I'd pass along some pictures of a couple of afternoon prayer partners that I've been seeing the last few days. These birds (I'm pretty sure they are barn swallows) are generally perched on the power line that runs right past my window, but I also think they've got a nest tucked in our roof somewhere.

If St. Francis could preach to the birds, why can't I pray with them?

Wednesday, July 9, 2008


This you gotta see...and they have whole clubs dedicated to this?

Maybe this opens the door for Eucharist Pong...

Worthwhile Article...

There is a terrific article in this month's issue of Touchstone that notes a remarkable similarity between Jeremiah Wright and "your best life now" preachers.  The article is not a polemic against the much-maligned UCC pastor, but rather how the Black Church has not cornered the market on liberation theology.  The author, Russell Moore, points out that one is just as likely to find the essence of Wright's theology in the self-help, consumerist White Church.  As Moore writes, " does not have to be a political radical to bypass Jesus at the church.  White, upwardly mobile, pro-America preachers preach liberation theology all the time, with all the fervor of Jeremiah Wright, if not the anger."
Both angles on the Gospel make the same mistake.  Blacks say that if we can escape psychological, economic, and political oppression in America that we will attain salvation.  Whites are seeking psychological, economic, and political liberation through the American Dream.
Both end up in the same place.  The Gospel exists to serve me, for my benefit.  But lets give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that we are able to attain perfect equality, perfect wealth distribution, etc.  What then?  Have we attained salvation?  Is that heaven?  Both styles, whether its the grunginess of black liberationists or the bourgeoisie self-help whites, lead to the same dead end.  As Moore puts it so well,
"In both cases, the preachers fit Jesus into a preexisting storyline.  They did not call upon their hearers to find themselves in the storyline of the crucified, buried, and ressurected Jesus.  For them, Jesus is a mascot, just for different agendas, none of which will last a minute past the Judgment Seat."

Monday, July 7, 2008

GAFCON and the UCC

It is a positive thing that the United Church of Christ keeps tabs on the other denominations among which she co-exists.  On the UCC website right now is an article concerning the PCUSA, the liberal branch of the Presbyterians in the United States (and, for what its worth, it is an article about gay clergy; is it really just the conservatives who are focused on sex?).  

But another partner of the UCC that is getting a lot of play in the media is the Episcopal Church.  The worldwide Anglican communion's existence is in serious jeopardy, and there is no guarantee that a unified Anglican church will exist in 10 years.  For years the Anglicans have tried to walk the line between a common faith and freedom in faith, the same line the United Church of Christ has walked for over 50 years now.  However, the success of that stance is waning, and  the battle between conservatives and liberals is coming to a head, and Christians around the world are watching.

The Anglican crisis calls for particular attention from UCC members because its arguments so closely mirror our own, and the rhetoric on both sides has a familiar ring.  During the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul (June 29), a statement was released from the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON), a gathering in Jerusalem of conservative Anglican bishops from all over the world (the majority being African - a persistently interesting twist).  During that conference they released a statement entitled  The Way, the Truth, the Life, outlining the theological positions of the conservative gathering.  The document warrants a close reading, but listen to some of the rhetoric being used:

"The liberals focus on shared worship, shared work and shared experience, but not on shared faith.  In contrast, the New Testament concept of fellowship is anchored in a common faith and a common mind (Phil. 2:1-2; John 1:1-3)."

"Liberal Anglican leaders and theologians insist, in their rhetoric, upon the comprehensiveness of the Church, but in reality they have problems with a comprehensiveness that includes the orthodox."

"The Anglican Church is committed to proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ crucified and risen. For some, however, the Church is itself the message. By this they mean that the Anglican Church’s own diversity, and its ability to live with plurality and contradiction in its own membership on matters of faith, is precisely the witness it gives to a plural society today."  

"How should we understand revelation?  It is the presence of God, and it is also God speaking to his people (God Is Still Spreaking!?!?).  These two understandings are completely compatible; they are only falsely opposed to one another.  God exercises his authority through his Spirit, by means of the words which he addresses to particular human beings.  Those who disagree with this claim will ask whether that speech is episodic and time-bound as we be suggested by its expression in a historical text, or whether it is of a different order from human-to-human speech."

These selections, among others, raise my antennae considerably; they are the verbatim battles we are fighting inside the UCC.  The lesson here is that the UCC better be watching the Episcopal Church; if they can somehow find a way to maintain their unity, or if they manage to destroy themselves, we would do well to take notes.  Will there be solutions that we can adapt to our own use?  Can we avoid the pitfalls that have and will occur?  Can we, as the UCC, live out what the Anglican church seems unable to do?  Is it possible to walk this path in faithfulness to Christ?  This is a fascinating, informative, and sorrowful tale.  May the Lord's wisdom and guidance prevail, come what may.