Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Anglicans Ablaze Midweek Special Edition: April 30, 2014

In this midweek special edition of Anglicans Ablaze:

Dave Gibbons: What's Next for the Church?

Dave Gibbons: What's Next for the Church?

Recently, I returned from the southern region of India where I attended a tech conference. Every time I travel to India (this was my sixth time to be there), I see dramatic changes from my previous visit that illustrate the nation’s emerging wealth and influence. The conference was held at the Infosys Technologies campus—a facility of more than 300 acres with European-style architecture with Corinthian columns, a huge pool and a large workout gym, two large eating areas, a convenience store and a bank, all on the premises, which is also home to more than 5,000 resident interns.

Against this backdrop suggestive of India’s economic growth and technological innovation, Sweden’s Hans Rosling, a brilliant statistician, spoke of the emergence of the East, and fielded the question, “When will the East surpass the West in per capita income?”

The projection? On July 10, 2048, China and India will overtake the West, a development that can be tracked in real time on, where dynamic graphics depict the West’s skyrocketing economic growth, its plateau, and then the surge of the East. Keep reading

Sex, Millennials, and the Church: Five Implications

My son, Jess Rainer, and I conducted an extensive study of the Millennials, those persons born between 1980 and 2000. We specifically surveyed 1,200 of the older Millennials, those who were born between 1980 and 1991. The results of the study were fascinating on a number of levels. But, probably to the surprise of few, we found that views on sexuality among these young adults are dramatically different from previous generations.

As a Boomer, I thought I was part of the generation that ushered in the sexual revolution. But I had no idea that views on sexuality would change so dramatically with the generation of my three sons. The implications for local congregations are staggering. Allow me at this juncture to offer five of those implications. I will expand on them later. Keep reading

Firing Rome’s Canon

I remain, even in these feel good days, a Protestant. What I protest is what my fathers protested—the folly of the Roman Catholic church. Such can get you in great deal of hot water these days. Everyone wants to go along to get along. Trouble is, Rome still teaches a false gospel, still calls for the damnation of people like me who preach the true gospel. Now I am happy to confess that explaining the nuances that separate infusion from imputation, distinctions between justification and sanctification can require a bit of theological training and historical understanding. I’m sorry to confess that Christians generally have precious little of either. If we can’t see what the big deal is with a little contemporary modalism, if we want to open the tent wide to welcome in those nice Mormons, what chance do I have for making the case that Rome is outside the pale?

Our ignorance is likewise apparent in how we look at the recent canonization of Popes John and John Paul (13th and 2nd respectively). I fear we think that what Rome did was merely to give them a super-duper merit badge. We cheer politely, even if we are a little fidgety about Roman theology, in the same way we would cheer politely if our crazy uncle won the big horseshoe tournament at the state fair. The craziness we’re not sure about, but he’s kin and did well. Keep reading

Photo: Johnmack161, Creative Commons

2 popes, now saints, reflect doctrinal divide

The Roman Catholic Church's canonization of Popes John XXIII and John Paul II highlights important doctrinal differences between Catholics and evangelicals, two seminary professors have noted.

With more than 1 million people watching in St. Peter's Square and on giant screens across Rome, Pope Francis installed two of his predecessors as saints Sunday (April 27). It was the first time the Catholic Church had canonized two popes at once, a move that some observers said was intended to unite rival constituencies within Catholicism -- progressives who admire John XXIII and conservatives who celebrate John Paul II.

The ceremony also illustrated the different definitions of "saint" held by Catholics and evangelicals, Rex Butler, professor of church history and patristics at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, told Baptist Press in written comments. As a resident of Louisiana, where approximately 30 percent of the population is Catholic and Roman Catholicism is the largest Christian denomination, Butler is well acquainted with the differences between evangelicals and Catholics.

For Catholics, "a 'saint' is a holy man or woman of extraordinary virtue who died with more merit than was necessary to enter heaven," Butler said. "Their extra merit then is stored in the Treasury of Merit -- also called the Treasury of the Saints -- and made available [through papal indulgences] to other, lesser Christians" to decrease their punishments in purgatory. "Also, saints in heaven are asked to pray on behalf of Christians on earth and in purgatory," he said.

But for evangelicals, "the title 'saint' is used appropriately for any person who is made holy through salvation by grace through faith," Butler said. "Certainly, this is how Paul understood the term 'saints' in his letters to the churches (1 Corinthians 1:2; Romans 1:7). Evangelicals disagree that Christians should ask for saints' prayers because our only mediator is Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 2:5)." Keep reading

Photo: All Saints, Ashmont

Lead your church to be evangelistic

Each year it seems local churches are devoting less time, less funding and less emphasis to equipping, encouraging and sending people to share the good news of Christ, particularly within their immediate communities. I believe the lack of evangelism within the local church is reaching a crisis stage.

Entire regions within North America are largely unchurched. Even in areas saturated with churches, scores of people have yet to hear the Gospel. Now more than ever, we have a pressing need for more evangelistic churches. The sad irony is that our evangelistic efforts are diminishing while a significant number of non-believers are more receptive to hearing about Jesus from a Christian.

Church leaders have a responsibility to honestly assess their current evangelism effectiveness. Does the church have intentional ministries focused on spreading the good news of Jesus Christ? What training programs are in place to ensure members are equipped to confidently share their faith? And perhaps most importantly, what is the leader doing to be more evangelistic and to demonstrate a commitment to personal evangelism?

The number one commonality I see in evangelistic churches is a pastor who leads by example. Here are various ways pastors can lead their churches to be more evangelistic.... Keep reading

The Atonement and the Passover: Exodus 12 by Matt Capps

Christ is our Passover Lamb.

The Passover Event
The Pharaoh-god refused to let Israel go free from slavery despite the Living God's demands through Moses. Pharaoh wanted to keep Israel under his power. God's response to Pharaoh's obstinate defiance in Exodus 7-10 is breathtaking. The one true God of the universe unleashes His power in acts of un-doing creation throughout Pharaoh's land. Order turns into chaos. Light is consumed by darkness. The water becomes a source of death rather than life. The beasts swarm the people and their crops rather than serve them. Finally, just as Pharaoh attempted to destroy God's firstborn son (Ex. 4:22), God now destroys Egypt's with a final plague.

None of the earlier plagues had touched God's people, as they were separated from the Egyptians. Now, the Israelites and the Egyptians are drawn into God's final plague together (Ex. 11:4-5). Israel's involvement in the last plague is significant. If the Israelites did not trust in God's word and follow His instructions; their firstborn would also die. The need for salvation is made clear and the atoning sacrifice is provided on Israel's behalf (Ex. 12). The conditions for atonement are laid out, but Israel must respond in faith. Keep reading

Effective Small Groups for Women [Video]

Julie Woodruff, Women’s Minister at Longhollow Baptist Church in Nashville, TN shares some thoughts on best practices when it comes to women’s small groups.

Small groups provide community. Julie shares a great quote she heard recently, “If you are aiming at community, you’ll miss it every time. But, if you have a mission, community will happen.” Church communities are different than any other communities.

Here are Julie’s thoughts on small groups.... Watch now

3 Ways Student Ministry Drains You

I have essentially served in three roles over the last 20 years: student pastor, executive pastor, and now Vice President at LifeWay. In my role as executive pastor and as the leader of the Church Resources Division at LifeWay, I have interacted daily with student ministry leaders. In other words, student ministry has always been something that matters a lot to me. I love and believe in student ministry because of the impact a healthy student ministry has on students, families, schools, a local community, the world, and ultimately eternity.

As thrilling as student ministry is, student ministry can be equally challenging. Serving as a student ministry leader can be physically, emotionally, and spiritually draining. Here are three reasons why.... Keep reading

New clues cast doubt on 'Gospel of Jesus' Wife'

It seemed real; it seemed fake; it seemed real again; now we’re back to fake.

"It” is the controversial little scrap of papyrus, written in Coptic, that seems to have Jesus referring to “my wife,” in contrast to the traditional stance that affirms Jesus’ perpetual bachelorhood.

The quick backstory: In 2012, a Harvard professor, Karen King, brought this papyrus to the attention of scholars and the public.

Both the material and the script looked authentically ancient at first glance, and though the notion of Jesus having a wife was remarkable, these “lost” Christian writings, such as the Gnostic Gospels, are full of unorthodoxies.

It was good enough for King, who is widely respected in the scholarly world.

From the beginning, there were doubts, however, beyond the unlikelihood that the tiny scrap that survived the centuries would happen to be the one that contained the reference to Jesus’ wife.

The papyrus, along with a few other ancient papyri of lesser novelty, had been passed to King by an anonymous figure.

Anonymity, in the world of antiquities, is often a bad sign, compounding the inherent uncertainty when dealing with texts that are bought and sold rather than discovered in a firm archaeological setting. Keep reading

Kenya President Signs Polygamy Bill Into Law Despite Christian Opposition

Kenya President Uhuru Kenyatta officially signed into law a bill legalizing polygamy, giving men the right to marry numerous women without consulting their other brides. The bill has faced opposition by the country's Christian leaders, who criticize it for not respecting women or marriage.

"Marriage is the voluntary union of a man and a woman, whether in a monogamous or polygamous union," Kenyatta said in a statement on Tuesday, AFP reported.

Archbishop Timothy Ndambuki, from the National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK), which represents more than 40 church and Christian organizations from across the east African nation,has said, however, that the tone of the bill is "demeaning to women since it does not respect the principle of equality of spouses in the institution of marriage."

Among the several provisions of the bill, men will be allowed to marry as many partners as they wish as long as long as they can afford it, and do not need to consult their other spouses, BBC News reported. Furthermore, the bill establishes that partners must be 18 or older to get married, and gives women 50 percent of property acquired during marriage.

While polygamy is banned across much of the rest of the world, it has legal status in several African and Middle East nations. Keep reading

CofE’s top female cleric: I would have ‘no problem’ with blessings for gay marriages

The most senor female cleric in the Church of England has said she would have no problem blessing gay marriages and accused the Church of “driving people away” with its current stance on same-sex relationships.

The Very Rev Vivienne Faull, the Dean of York, who is considered the frontrunner to become the first women bishop, said the current episcopate had not “quite got” how radically attitudes to homosexuality had changed in the UK.

In an interview with Radio Times, she disclosed that although she follows rules which ban official wedding-like blessing services for same-sex couples, she had previously “found ways” of celebrating gay and lesbian couples’ civil partnerships.

Speaking ahead of a new BBC2 series about York Minster, she said she had already been approached by couples of the same sex wishing to celebrate their marriage in church.

She argued that many people in Britain no longer “understand in their hearts” the Church’s position on homosexuality. Keep reading

See also
Church attitude to gay marriage is 'driving people away' says dean of York

Christian Somali Woman Dragged Out by Islamic Militants and Shot Dead Before Family

Islamic militants from the al-Shabaab terrorist organization reportedly dragged out a Christian woman from her home in Somalia and shot her dead while friends and neighbors tried to save her.

According to International Christian Concern, the murder occurred earlier this month when armed militants stormed the home of the woman, Sufia, in Mogadishu. She was dragged out in front of her parents by gunpoint, before being publicly shot in front of a crowd. Friends and neighbors attempted to save her.

The Islamists had accused the Somali woman of being an apostate (a person who converts from Islam to another faith). Keep reading

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Moving Toward Church Multiplication Movements: How Multiplication Can Be Enhanced through Denominational Backing

Denominational involvement is one of the key parts of a church multiplication movement.

While rethinking involvement with denominations has become popular, abandoning them all together would be unwise. Most church planting done in West is done by denominations, not individual churches, individual Christians, or even emerging church planting networks. The same is true for U.S. church planting and the vast majority of mission work overseas. If we want to pursue a Church Multiplication Movement, we will need the enthusiastic support of denominations and denominational leaders.

Christians were never meant to be self-sufficient islands that could grow, multiply, and accomplish the Great Commission on their own. Churches can't do it either—at lest not alone. They need other churches in partnership. So, if a Church Multiplication Movement is going to happen, denominational support is not optional—it's mandatory.

No matter how savvy the leaders, how compelling the stories, or how joyous the celebrations, without the multi-faceted support of a denominations, Church Multiplication Movements will probably not thrive.

I can conceive of a future that simply moves beyond denominations, but that future is not yet here. If a Multiplication Movement happens now, it will involve—must involve—denominations. Keep reading


The Aftermath of a Church Building Program: Six Keys to Success

I find great joy in hearing the stories of churches that had successful building programs. By “successful” I do not mean just the adequate funding and completion of the project. I mean that the church continues to have a momentum in ministry, outward focus, and internal unity.

Unfortunately, a number of churches complete a building program only to see more challenges than opportunities. They often become discouraged and disillusioned. The building program was perceived to be a significant answer to their needs. Instead the church finds itself with declining ministries and attendance, and with greater debt and facilities to underwrite.

So what is the difference between the successful and unsuccessful churches in building programs? Why do some thrive in the aftermath, while others hit difficult times? Allow me to offer six keys to successful programs. Keep reading

See also
Protecting the Pastor’s Ministry in a Church Building Program
Why Church Buildings Matter: An Interview with Tim Cool
Trends in Church Facilities: An Interview with Gary Nicholson of Visioneering Studios

10 Ideas to Improve Giving in Your Church

Something’s amiss in the North American church when believers average giving about 2-3 percent of their income to the church each year. Such shallow giving limits our ministry possibilities and hinders our getting the gospel to the nations.

If you want to increase the giving in your congregation, consider these steps.... Keep reading

Destroy a Church in 4 Simple Steps

A short time ago I learned of a church building in our neighborhood that was for sale. For years now Grace Fellowship Church has been looking for a building of our own, so we thought we should go and give it a look. This had once been a thriving congregation. Faithful Christians had given sacrificially to construct that building. They had consecrated it to the Lord and had worshipped there for many years. Yet now that building was deserted, decaying, and up for sale.

What happened? How did that church go from thriving to dying? How did it slide from healthy to sick to dead? I think I know. I think Paul tells us in his second letter to Timothy, the letter he wrote just days or weeks before his death. There, in chapter 4, he looks into the future, he sees a church being destroyed, and he warns us how it happens. It’s as straightforward as four simple steps.

Before we get to those four steps we need to see one critical piece of information: this church self-destructs. The church is not closed down through government persecution; it is not afflicted by cultural pressure and does not succumb to the attacks of another religion. This church is eroded from the inside, from within the membership. This church is destroyed by people claiming to act in the name of Jesus.

Here are those four simple steps that lead to a church’s self-destruction. Keep reading

Three Simple Strategies for Successful Reading

When God extends the call to ministry, particularly the pastoral ministry, it seems that accompanying that calling for many is the desire to read. Several pastors I’ve had the privilege of sitting down to speak with have shared somewhat surprisingly that when they were called to ministry a passion for reading came with it. Reading is one of the greatest and simplest tools that any pastoral can access for their growth.

How then, with everything demanded of pastors on a daily basis, can we simply read well for God’s glory and our good? Let me suggest three simple strategies for successful reading. Keep reading

Livestream Biola University Webcast 'The Future of Protestantism' on Tuesday, April 29th, at 7:00 PM PST

Should the shape of Protestant theology and the Protestant consciousness still be determined by the Reformation's reaction to Roman Catholicism? In late 2013, Dr. Peter Leithart ignited an important dialogue on the meaning, role, and future of Protestantism with a widely-read article at First Things.

Join us online as we continue that significant conversation and consider what the Reformation means for Protestants today. Is the Reformation over? How should American Protestantism relate to Rome or Eastern Orthodoxy? Will Protestantism need to change if it is to thrive in the 21st century? Learn more

Pro-gay book cites Piper, Keller

A new book attempting to make a biblical case for homosexual marriage asserts that John Piper and Tim Keller hold "core principles" that "should cause them to reconsider" their opposition to same-sex marriage. But both Piper and Keller have argued in recent writings that homosexual acts and desires are sins.

Matthew Vines' "God and the Gay Christian," released April 22 by Convergent Books, also cites Augustine, John Chrysostom, John Calvin and C.S. Lewis in the course of arguing that Scripture allows monogamous same-sex marriage. Vines admits that Christians throughout history condemned homosexuality, but he writes that most did not understand the modern concept of homosexual "orientation" and that aspects of their thought lend support to the argument for gay marriage.

However, a survey of the authors cited by Vines suggests they were well acquainted with homosexuality as they opposed it. Keep reading

Government demolishes Chinese church

Pictures have emerged on Twitter of bulldozers tearing down the mega church, which was a colossal seven stories high and totalled 100,000 square feet.

Members of the congregation have been protesting at the site for weeks, defending the building from being torn down following a demolition notice from local authorities who claimed that it violated safety and size regulations.

The facts of the case are largely unclear, however, as reports are conflicting. Some suggest that the church is a state-sanctioned 'Three-Self' church, while others indicate that the building was illegally erected.

In response to the situation, church members have accused the government of launching an offensive against Christian places of worship across the country. They claim that accusations of illegal building are merely "a pretext to tear down churches". Keep reading

Monday, April 28, 2014

Jesus Not Only Died for Us, He Lived for Us

We must see that the righteousness of Christ that is transferred to us is the righteousness He achieved by living under the Law for thirty-three years without once sinning. Jesus had to live a life of obedience before His death could mean anything. He had to acquire, if you will, merit at the bar of justice. Without His life of sinless obedience, Jesus’ atonement would have had no value at all. We need to see the crucial significance of this truth; we need to see that not only did Jesus die for us, He lived for us.
Not only did Jesus die for us, He lived for us
Roman Catholics call this concept a legal fiction, and they recoil from it because they believe it casts a shadow on the integrity of God by positing that God declares to be just people who are not just. In response, the Reformers conceded that this concept would be a legal fiction if imputation were fictional. In that case, the Protestant view of justification would be a lie. But the point of the Gospel is that “imputation is real—God really laid our sins on Christ and really transferred the righteousness of Christ to us. We really possess the righteousness of Jesus Christ by imputation. He is our Savior, not merely because He died, but because He lived a sinless life before He died, as only the Son of God could do. Keep reading

Do Your Programs Justify Themselves?

A plethora of church programs is not an indicator of church health and vitality. A busy calendar does not equate with transformation. A long list of church programs “you must not miss” does not make a church more effective.

In fact, the opposite is often true. Too many programs, too much activity, divides the energy of people and sends people in a multitude of directions. A busy calendar can fill schedules without filling hearts. It is ironic that some pastors have preached “If Satan cannot get you to sin, he will just get you busy” while offering more and more programs to keep the church busy. A.W. Tozer wrote about how church programs can “justify themselves”.... Keep reading

The Pastor and Personal Finances

Personal finances, church finances, and stewardship are all important to the pastor. In the 1960s Time Magazine every year issued small cards with a slogan that expressed the mood of the times. One year they issued a card that read, “Money is not the most important thing in life.” On the back of the card they added, “but it is way out in front of whatever is in second place.” Most pastors do not want to talk about money, but if they do not, they do not preach and teach the whole counsel of God. There is a lot about money in the Bible.

The pastor’s attitude toward money will be reflected in his church’s attitude toward money. He needs to practice a biblical balance about money. If he talks about it too often, some people will think that money is all he is interested in. If he never talks about money, he robs his people of the opportunity to discover God’s financial plan.

W. A. Criswell, former pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas, for nearly fifty years, gave young couples seeking marriage some good, biblically balanced advice about handling their money. It is good advice for pastors as well. He told them to give the first 10 percent of their money back to God. Then give yourself the next 10 percent. Put this in savings. If a pastor does these two things consistently, he will capture the biblical balance about handling money in his personal finances. Keep reading

Where is Christian mission facing the biggest challenges?

Since the Great Commission and the journeys of Paul, Christians have been intent on spreading their ministry as far and wide as possible. Today however there are two large stumbling blocks for the Church.

Dick Slikker, of the Dutch Christian mission consultancy group Project Care, has identified two major regions where he believes the Church needs to both re-focus its energy and adjust its thinking.

The first area is what is often referred to as the traditional 'West', specifically North America and Western Europe. Mr Slikker notes that Western Europe, in terms of the percentage of its population considered to be Christian, has experienced the greatest decline in the entire world over the previous century. Keep reading

First Brazilian Reformed Anglican Congregation Received into the Free Church of England

On Easter Sunday 2014, in a historic turn of events, the first of three Brazilian Reformed Anglican congregations was received into the Free Church of England (FCE). Its reception is the first step toward the development of the FECE in Brazil and the expansion of the FCE mission outside the United Kingdom. These congregations are registered under the name Igreja Anglicana Reformada do Brasil (IARB). The FCE has committed itself to supporting gospel work in Brazil through the IARB.

The FCE and the IARB began informal conversations in 2011. At its National Synod in 2012 the IARB voted to seek affiliation with the FCE. The FCE warmly welcomed this request at its Convocation in 2013. The FCE is currently drawing up new Canons, which will enable it to develop missionary and overseas dioceses. The IARB congregations are presently under the oversight of the FCE Bishop Primus under the provisions of the existing Canons.

The first FCE congregations were formed in 1844. They came together under a common constitution in 1863. See the accompanying article, “The Articles of Religion of the Free Church of England, for the FCE confession of faith.  

For over 150 years the FCE has been a faithful witness to the Gospel in Great Britain and other parts of the world. In the twenty-first century the FCE is seeking to expand its mission beyond the United Kingdom, as well as to further establish new congregations and ministries in the British Isles.

The orders of the FCE are recognized by the Church of England.

The IARB began with a small house church. At its first Synod in 2009 the representatives of five congregations and missions were in attendance. Since that time the IARB has grown to more than dozen congregations and missions.

For further information contact:

The Right Revd Dr John Fenwick, Bishop Primus of the Free Church of England.

The Right Revd Josep Rossello, Commissary for the Brazilian Churches.


The Articles of Religion of the Free Church of England

The Articles of Religion of the Free Church of England differ from the Articles of Religion of the Church of England in a number of places. I have marked with an asterisk (*) those articles that have been altered or revised.

The Articles of Religion

Article 1 – 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.

Article 2 – 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 us to his Father, and to be a sacrifice, not only for original guilt, but also for all actual sins of men.

Article 3 – Of the going down of Christ into Hell

As Christ died for us, and was buried, so also is it to be believed that He went down into Hell (Hades).

Article 4 – Of the Resurrection of Christ

Christ did truly rise again from death, and took again his body, with flesh, bones, and all things appertaining to the perfection of man's nature, wherefore he ascended into heaven, and there sitteth until he return to judge all Men at the last day.

Article 5 – Of the Holy Ghost

The Holy Ghost, proceeding from the Father and the Son, is of one substance, majesty, and glory with the Father and the Son, very and eternal God.

Article 6 - The Sufficiency of the holy Scriptures for Salvation*

Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the Faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation. In the name of Holy Scripture, we do understand those Canonical Books of the Old and New Testament, of whose authority was never any doubt in the Church.

Of the Names and Number of the Canonical Books.

The First Book of Samuel,
The Second Book of Samuel,
The First Book of Kings,
The Second Book of Kings,
The First Book of Chronicles,
The Second Book of Chronicles
The Book of Ezra,
The Book of Nehemiah,
The Book of Esther,
The Book of Job,
The Proverbs,
Ecclesiastes, or Preacher,
Canticles, or Songs of Solomon,
Four Prophets the Greater,
Twelve Prophets the Less

The Books commonly called “The Apocrypha,” form no part of the Canonical Scriptures; and therefore, are not to be used to establish any doctrine; nor are they to be publicly read in the Church.

All the Books of the New Testament, as they are commonly received, we do receive, and account them Canonical.

Article 7. Of the Old Testament

The Old Testament is not contrary to the New: for in both everlasting life is offered to Mankind by Christ, who is the only Mediator between God and Man, being both God and Man. Wherefore there are not to be heard which feign that the old Fathers did look only for transitory promises. Although the Law given from God by Moses, as touching Ceremonies and Rites, do not bind Christian men, nor the Civil precepts thereof ought of necessity to be received in any commonwealth; yet, notwithstanding, no Christian man whatsoever is free from the obedience of the commandments which are called Moral.

Article 8 – Of the Three Creeds

The three Creeds, Nicene Creed, Athanasius' Creed, and that which is commonly called the Apostles' Creed, ought thoroughly to be received and believed; for they may be proved by most certain warrants of holy Scripture.

Article 9 - Original or Birth Sin

Original Sin standeth not in the following of Adam (as the Pelagians do vainly talk), but it is the fault and corruption of the Nature of every man that naturally is ingendered of the offspring of Adam, whereby man is very far gone from original righteousness, and is of his own nature inclined to evil, so that the flesh lusteth always contrary to the spirit; and therefore in every person born into this world, it deserveth God's wrath and damnation. And this infection of nature doth remain, yea, in them that are regenerated, whereby the lust of the flesh, called in the Greek phronema sarkos, which some do expound the wisdom, some sensuality, some the affection, some the desire, of the flesh, is not subject to the Law of God. And although there is no condemnation for them that believe and are baptized, yet the Apostle doth confess that concupiscence and lust hath of itself the nature of sin.

Article 10 – 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.

Article 11 – 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 deserving. Wherefore that we are justified by faith only is a most wholesome doctrine, and very full of comfort.

Article 12 – Of Good Works

Albeit that Good Works, which are the fruits of Faith and follow after Justification, cannot put away our sins and endure the severity of God's Judgement, yet are they pleasing and acceptable to God in Christ, and do spring out necessarily of a true and lively Faith, insomuch that by them a lively faith may be as evidently known as a tree discerned by the fruit.

Article 13 – Of Works before Justification*

Works done before the grace of Christ and the Inspiration of His Spirit, are not of saving efficacy, forasmuch as they spring not of faith in Jesus Christ, neither do they make men meet to receive grace.

Article 14 –Of Works of Supererogation

Voluntary works besides, over and above, God's Commandments which they call Works of Supererogation, cannot be taught without arrogance and impiety: for by them men do declare that they do not only render unto God as much as they are bound to do, but that they do more for his sake than of bounden duty is required: Whereas Christ said plainly, When you have done all that are commanded to you, say, We are unprofitable servants.

Article 15 – Of Christ alone without Sin

Christ in the truth of our nature was made like unto us in all things, sin only except, from which He was clearly void, both in his flesh and in His spirit. He came to be the Lamb without spot, who, by sacrifice of Himself once made, should take away the sins of the world: and sin, as Saint John said, was not in him. But all we the rest, although baptized, and born again in Christ, yet offend in many things: and if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

Article 16 – Of Sin after Baptism

Not every deadly sin willingly committed after Baptism is sin against the Holy Ghost, and unpardonable. Wherefore the grant of repentance is not to be denied to such as fall into sin after Baptism. After we have received the Holy Ghost, we may depart from grace given and fall into sin, and by the grace of God we may arise again and amend our lives. And therefore they are to be condemned, which say, they can no more sin as long as they live here, or deny the place of forgiveness to such as truly repent.

Article 17 – Of Predestination and Election

Predestination to Life is the everlasting purpose of God, whereby (before the foundations of the world were laid) he hath constantly decreed by his counsel secret to us, to deliver from curse and damnation those whom He has chosen in Christ out of mankind, and to bring them by Christ to everlasting salvation as vessels made to honour. Wherefore they which are endued with so excellent a benefit of God are called according to God's purpose by his Spirit working in due season; they through Grace obey the calling; they be justified freely; they are made sons of God by adoption; they are made like the image of his only-begotten Son Jesus Christ; they walk religiously in good works, and at length by God's mercy they attain to everlasting felicity.

As the godly consideration of Predestination, and our Election in Christ is full of sweet, pleasant, and unspeakable comfort to godly persons and such as feel in themselves the working of the Spirit of Christ, mortifying the works of the flesh, and their earthly members, and drawing up their mind to high and heavenly things, as well because it doth greatly establish and confirm their faith of eternal salvation to be enjoyed through Christ, as because it doth fervently kindle their love towards God: So for curious and carnal persons, lacking the Spirit of Christ, to have continually before their eyes the sentence of God's Predestination is a most dangerous downfall, whereby the Devil doth thrust them either into desperation or into wretchlessness of most unclean living no less perilous than desperation.

Furthermore, we must receive God's promises in such wise, as they be generally set forth in holy Scripture: and in our doings, that Will of God is to be followed, which we have expressly declared unto us in the Word of God.

Article 18 – Of Obtaining eternal salvation only by the name of Christ*

They also err that presume to say, That every man shall be saved by the Law or Sect which he professeth, so that he is diligent to frame his life according to that Law and the light of Nature. For holy Scripture doth set out to us only the name of Jesus Christ, whereby men must be saved.

Article 19 – Of the Church*

The Holy Catholic Church is “the blessed company of all faithful people,” who, united to Christ by Faith, and made partakers of the Holy Ghost, are the “Spouse and Body of Christ.” The visible Church of Christ is a congregation of faithful men, in which the pure Word of God is preached and the Sacraments be duly ministered according to Christ's ordinance in all those things that of necessity are requisite to the same.

As the Church of Jerusalem, Alexandria, and Antioch have erred: so also the Church of Rome has erred, not only in their living and manner of Ceremonies, but also in matters of Faith.

Article 20 – Of the Authority of the Church

The Church has power to decree Rites or Ceremonies, and authority in Controversies of Faith: And yet it is not lawful for the Church to ordain anything contrary to God's Word written, neither may it so expound one place of Scripture, that it be repugnant to another. Wherefore, although the Church is a witness and a keeper of holy Writ, yet, as it ought not to decree anything against the same, so besides the same ought it not to enforce anything to be believed for necessity of Salvation.

Article 21 – Of the authority of General Councils*

General Councils (forasmuch as they be an assembly of men, whereof all be not governed with the Spirit and Word of God) may err and sometime have erred, even in things pertaining unto God. Wherefore things ordained by them as necessary to salvation have neither strength nor authority, unless it may be proved that they be taken out of holy Scripture.

Article 22 – Of Purgatory

The Romish Doctrine concerning Purgatory, Pardons, Worshipping and Adoration as well of Images as of Relics, and also Invocation of Saints, is a fond thing vainly invented, and grounded upon no warranty of Scripture; but rather repugnant to the Word of God.

Article 23 – Of Ministering in the Congregation

It is not lawful for any man to take upon him the office of publick preaching, or ministering the Sacraments in the Congregation, before he be lawfully called and sent to execute the same. And those we ought to judge lawfully called and sent, which be chosen and called to this work by men who have publick authority given unto them in the Congregation, to call and send Ministers into the Lord's vineyard.

Article 24 – Of Speaking in the Congregation in such tongue as the people understandeth

It is a thing plainly repugnant to the Word of God, and the custom of the Primitive Church, to have publick Prayer in the Church, or to minister the Sacraments in a tongue not understanded of the people.

Article 25 – Of the Sacraments*

Sacraments ordained of Christ are not only badges or tokens of Christian men's profession, but rather they be certain sure witnesses to Divine truth, and signs of grace, and God's good will towards us, by which he doth strengthen and confirms our Faith in him.

There are two Sacraments ordained of Christ our Lord in the Gospel, that is to say, Baptism and the Supper of the Lord.

Those five, commonly called Sacraments, that is to say, Confirmation, Penance, Orders, Matrimony, and Extreme Unction, are not to be counted for Sacraments of the Gospel, being such as have grown partly of the corrupt following of the Apostles, partly are states of life allowed in the Scriptures; but yet have not the like nature of Sacraments with Baptism and the Lord's Supper, for that they have not any visible sign or ceremony ordained of God.

The Sacraments were not ordained of Christ to be gazed upon or to be carried about, but that we should duly use them. And in such only as worthily receive the same are they of spiritual benefit: but they that receive them unworthily, purchase to themselves judgment, as S. Paul said.

Article 26 – Of the unworthiness of Ministers does not hinder the effect of the Sacraments*

Although in the visible Church the evil be ever mingled with the good, and sometime the evil has chief authority in the Ministration of the Word and Sacraments; yet forasmuch as they do not do so in their own name, but in Christ's, the believer is not deprived of the benefits of God’s ordinances, though they be ministered by evil men, yet are they Christ’s institution, and set forth his promise.

Nevertheless it appertaineth to the discipline of the Church, that inquiry be made of evil Ministers, and that they be accused by those that have knowledge of their offences; and finally, being found guilty, by just judgement, be deprived.

Article 27 – Of Baptism*

Baptism is not only a sign of profession, but is also a sign or symbol, of Regeneration or new Birth. They that receive Baptism rightly are grafted into the visible Church; the promises of the forgiveness of sin, and of our adoption to be the sons of God, by the Holy Spirit are visibly set forth; Faith is confirmed, and Grace increased by virtue of prayer unto God. The Baptism of young children is in any wise to be retained in the Church, as not contrary to the institution of Christ.

Article 28 – Of the Lord's Supper*

The Supper of the Lord is not only a sign of the love that Christians ought to have among themselves one to another; but rather it is a Sacrament of our Redemption by Christ's death: in so much that to such as rightly, worthily, and with faith receive the same, the Bread which we break is a partaking of the Body of Christ; and likewise the Cup of Blessing is a partaking of the Blood of Christ.

Transubstantiation (or the change of the substance of Bread and Wine) in the Supper of the Lord, cannot be proved by holy Writ; but is repugnant to the plain words of Scripture, overthroweth the nature of a Sacrament, and hath given occasion to many superstitions.

Consubstantiation (or the doctrine that Christ is veiled under the unchanged Bread and Wine) is utterly without warrant of Scripture, and is productive, equally with transubstantiation, of idolatrous errors and practices.

The Body of Christ is given, taken, and eaten in the Supper, only after an heavenly and spiritual manner. And the means whereby the Body of Christ is received and eaten in the Supper is Faith.

The Sacrament of the Lord's Supper was not by Christ's Ordinance reserved, carried about, lifted up, or worshipped.

Article 29 – Of the wicked which do not eat the body of Christ, in the use of the Lord's Supper

The Wicked, and such as be void of a lively faith, although they do carnally and visibly press with their teeth (as Saint. Augustine saith) the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ, yet in no wise are they partakers of Christ: but rather, to their condemnation, do eat and drink the sign or Sacrament of so great a thing.

Article 30 – Of both Kinds

The Cup of the Lord is not to be denied to the Lay-people; for both the bread and the wine of the Lord's Sacrament, by Christ's ordinance and commandment, ought to be ministered to all Christian men alike.

Article 31 – Of the one Oblation of Christ finished upon the Cross*

The Offering of Christ once made is that perfect redemption, propitiation, and satisfaction, for all the sins of the whole world, both original and actual, and there is no other satisfaction for sin, but that alone. Wherefore the sacrifice of Mass, and the sacrifices of the Masses, in which it is commonly said, that the Priest doth offer Christ for the quick and the dead, to have remission of pain or guilt, are blasphemous fables and dangerous deceits.

Article 32 – Of the Marriage of the Clergy*

Bishops, Presbyters, and Deacons, are not commanded by God's Law, either to vow the estate of single life, or to abstain from marriage: therefore it is lawful for them, as for all other Christian men, to marry at their own discretion, as they shall judge the same to serve better to godliness.

Article 33 – Of Auricular Confession

Private confession of sins to a priest, commonly called Auricular Confession, has no sanction in the word of God, and is a human invention. No one can forgive sins as against God but God alone.

Article 34 – Of the Traditions of the Church

It is not necessary that Traditions and Ceremonies be in all places one or utterly alike; for at all times they have been divers, and may be changed according to the diversities of countries, times, and men's manners, so that nothing be ordained against God's Word. Whosoever through his private judgement, willingly and purposely, doth openly break the traditions and ceremonies of the Church, which be not repugnant to the Word of God, and be ordained and approved by common authority, ought to be rebuked openly, (that others may fear to do the like,) as he that offendeth against common order of the Church, and hurteth the authority of the Magistrate, and woundeth the conscience of the weak brethren.

Every particular or national Church hath authority to ordain, change, and abolish, ceremonies or rites of the Church ordained only by man's authority, so that all things be done to edifying.

Article 35 – Of Apostolic Succession*

That doctrine of “Apostolic Succession,” by which is taught that the Ministry in the Christian Church must be derived through a series of uninterrupted ordinations from the Apostles themselves, and that without the same there can be no Christian Church, no valid Ministry, and no due ministration of the Sacraments, has no foundation in Scripture, and is productive of great mischief.

Article 36 - Of Consecration of Bishops and Ministers*

The Book of Consecration of Bishops and Ordering of Presbyters and Deacons, set forth by this Church, doth contain all things necessary to such Consecration and Ordering: neither hath it anything, that of itself is superstitious or ungodly. And therefore whosoever are consecrated or ordered according to the Rites of that Book, or hereafter shall be consecrated or ordered according to the same Rites, we decree all such to be rightly, orderly, and lawfully consecrated and ordered.

Article 37 - Of the Civil Magistrates*

The King's Majesty hath the chief power in this realm of England and other of his dominions, unto whom the chief civil Government of all Estates of this Realm, in all causes doth appertain, and is not, nor ought to be, subject to any foreign Jurisdiction.

Where we attribute to the King's Majesty the chief government, we give not to our Princes the ministering either of God's Word or of Sacraments; but that only prerogative, which we see to have been given always to all godly Princes in holy Scriptures by God himself, that is, that they should rule all states and degrees committed to their charge by God, and restrain with the civil sword the stubborn and evildoers.

The Bishop of Rome has no jurisdiction in this realm of England.

The Laws of the Realm may punish Christian men with death for heinous and grievous offences.

It is lawful for Christian men, at the commandment of the Magistrate, to wear weapons, and serve in the wars.

Article 38 – Of Christian men's goods which are not common*

The Riches and Goods of Christians are not common, as touching the right, title, and possession of the same. Notwithstanding, every man ought, of such things as he possesses, liberally to give alms to the poor, according to his ability.

Article 39 – Of a Christian man's Oath*

As we confess that vain and rash Swearing is forbidden Christian men by our Lord Jesus Christ, and James his Apostle, so we judge, that Christian Religion doth not prohibit, but that a man may swear when the Magistrate requireth, in a cause of faith and charity, so it be done according to the Prophet's teaching in justice, judgement, and truth.

Communiqué from the GAFCON Primates Council

Grateful for the gracious guidance of the Holy Spirit, and the leadership of its Chairman, the Most Reverend Dr Eliud Wabukala, the GAFCON Primates Council met in London from April 24th to 26th, 2014.

1. Following the success of our Nairobi Conference last October, at which over 1,300 delegates from 38 nations and 27 Provinces of the Anglican Communion were present, we have met to take counsel together and address the mandate we were given in the Nairobi Communiqué and Commitment to take forward the work of the GAFCON movement. We are determined and enthusiastic, and we look for the prayer and financial support of Anglicans around the world who long for a clear and certain witness to Jesus Christ as Lord.

2. As was stated in the Nairobi Communiqué, we believe that the GAFCON movement is emerging as a faithful instrument of unity capable of gathering the majority of faithful Anglicans in communion globally. We are now taking practical steps to heal, renew and revitalize the Communion for future mission by growing our membership, improving the frequency and range of our communication and setting up networks, which will equip us to fulfill the Great Commission. We are already eagerly anticipating GAFCON 3 in 2018. Keep reading

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Anglicans Ablaze Weekend Edition: April 26, 2014

In this weekend's edition of Anglicans Ablaze:

Why “New” Works So Well

Here’s a growth axiom you can take to the bank. Whether you are pastoring a (large, medium, or small) church…leading a youth group…overseeing a music ministry…or involved with any other aspect of a church in which you believe God desires growth, it is just about guaranteed. Here it is:

New Units = New Growth

It’s a proven principle. New Sunday school classes attract new people. New small groups involve new people. New worship services connect with new people. New churches reach new people. Keep reading

7 Warning Signs Your Church has Ministry Silos: The Vision Test

Because the issue of ministry silos is one of the most common challenges churches face, I asked the Unstuck Team to identify warning signs that they’ve experienced. Here’s the first one they identified.... Keep reading 

See also
Church Ministry Silos
Simple Discipleship
Silos: The Unspoken Barrier to Ministry
6 reasons you should identify ministry silos
5 Ways to Minimize Ministry Silos
5 Foundations for Eliminating Ministry Silos
For readers who are unfamiliar with the concept of "ministry silos," I have included links to a number of articles related to this concept.

13 Things to do When Your Church is Hurting Financially

“My God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).

A lot of things can happen when a church experiences a money crunch, most of them bad.

The finance committee can get upset, deacons can get angry, church members become scared, and staff members start honing their resumes and looking for a safe place to jump. Nothing about this is good.

Can anything good come from a financial crisis? It depends on how you handle it. Read on.

Keep in mind that sometimes a financial crunch results from a too-aggressive program outstripping the resources. Perhaps the church has become too-invested in a project and the crisis sounds a wakeup call.

In most cases, the causes for the crisis are familiar to every church leader. You have been there before and will be here again…..

–Emergency expenses may have drained the bank account.

–Some problem within the congregation is driving people away.

–There’s no problem at all. You’re reaching a lot of people who have not been taught to give to the Lord’s work.

Whatever the cause, the church is in a financial bind. Something has to be done.

Here are 13 suggestions on what that “something” is…. Keep reading

How to Have a More Loving Church, and Why It’s So Vital

One of the most important factors for the growth of your church, of any church, of the kingdom for that matter, is how loving we are as Christians. It’s absolutely essential that we lead our churches to be love-filled communities. It’s love that reaches people. You don’t argue people into the kingdom of heaven. You love them into the kingdom of heaven.

How do you have a loving church? Three steps.... Keep reading

When People Leave: The Private Pain of the Small Church Pastor

It’s hard when people leave a church.

It’s hard to leave. It’s hard being left.

Most who leave don’t make that decision lightly. They deal with some serious pain when they finally make the decision to go.

If you’ve been a pastor for several years, you’ve had to deal with your share of such departures. Each one hurts. It’s especially hard when those leaving are long-term members.

The collective pain of all those departures over a long period of time can wear a pastor down.

Even if the church is growing, it can be hard when people leave. But when the church is small, each loss is that much more painful.

First, there’s the math. The percentage loss is much higher than in a bigger church. Losing one family can mean massive changes in entire ministries.

Second – and most difficult – it’s not just a drop in attendance, tithers or volunteers. It’s the loss of people we know. People we’ve invested in. People we’re friends with. Keep reading

The Meaning of Christ's Death: Five Truths from 1 Peter 3:18

Nothing is more important than understanding what the Bible teaches about the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. What we understand and personally believe about this historical and supremely spiritual event determines our eternal destiny. Therefore, there is no room for error on this doctrine. Error will only lead to eternal damnation in hell. Biblical truth is our only hope of heaven.

There is one verse that so completely defines the meaning of the death of Christ that if we had no other verse, it would be enough. It would be enough to tell us why He died, what His death accomplished for sinners, why He only remained dead for three days, and how our guilt can be removed so that we can be restored to God.

The verse I am referring to is 1 Peter 3:18, “For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, in order that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit.”

Here we discover five truths that explain the meaning of the death of Christ. Keep reading

Top 10 Habits of Leaders Who Effectively Guard Their Hearts

If someone asked you how your heart is, what would you say?

I know, it’s a weird question

But what I told you that the answer to that question would determine:

   How long you’ll last in leadership.

   How effective you’ll be in leadership.

   Your ultimate capacity as a leader.

I believe the condition of your heart determines all that, and much more. So how is your heart? And how do you make it healthy? Keep reading

How the Preacher can do Weddings He'll Not Regret

My first wedding didn’t turn out too well. My sister and the fellow she chose for her life-mate asked me to marry them. I was ordained and trying to pastor a tiny church outside Birmingham, but other than that, was as green as it’s possible to get. I bought a Pastor’s Manual (yep, they make those things) and in someone’s living room, as I recall, read every word of the ceremony.

I sometimes wondered if the fact that the marriage didn’t last had anything to do with the fact that I didn’t know what I was doing.

Sometime–when we both have the time–I’ll tell you some of my wedding stories. I have quite a few, some embarrassing to me (like calling the groom by the best man’s name) and some embarrassing to the participants (like the time the bride fainted), and some just funny.

I have done hundreds of weddings in almost every conceivable situation–sanctuaries, college chapels, parks, living rooms, and back yard patios–and so have learned a few lessons on how to do this right. (And twice that many on how to get it wrong!)
,Br/> Here are my pointers. Use any that work for you, and ignore the rest. Keep reading

See also
A Letter I Gave to Couples Who Wanted Me to Perform Their Wedding Ceremony

Is Your Church Ready for a Mobile App?

For most who are honest, a brief panic ensues when our mobile device is lost. Now, more than ever, we look to our mobile phones and tablets to stay connected. In fact, 2 hours and 42 minutes of the average US consumer’s day is spent on his/her phone (Flurry study).

What does that mean for churches? First, church websites need to be responsive, designed to accommodate users on multiple platforms. Second, churches need to look beyond websites to other mobile possibilities, including mobile apps.

Although having a clean, up-to-date website should be a must for churches, users spend 86% of their mobile time on apps. As a result, failing to research and consider a church mobile app ignores a huge segment of members and guests who rely on their mobile devices rather than their computers. For churches wanting to dive deeper and engage more fully with their community, here are a few reasons to consider mobile apps.... Keep reading

Carnal Peace

The message of the false prophets of Israel was one of peace. But their peace was an illusion. They preached peace when there was no peace, or what Luther called a carnal peace. Luther said that when the gospel is preached with passion and with accuracy, it does not bring peace. In fact, our Lord Himself said, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matt. 10:34). That does not mean that we are called to use weapons of military combat to further the extension of the kingdom. We are to be peacemakers. We are to be tolerant, kind, and patient people. But if you look at the record of history, the true prophets of Israel contended for the truth, and every time they did, controversy emerged. Keep reading
This excerpt is from R.C. Sproul’s Crucial Questions booklet, What Is the Church? Download this eBook and the rest of the series for free here.

Judgement isn't a popular message but we can't shy away from talking about it

I would not want to be so simplistic as to suggest that our present culture is a mirror image of Judah in the 6th century BC but I reckon that, for all our technological advances, the prophet Jeremiah would have felt very much at home in 21st century Britain.

Jeremiah lived in turbulent days. It was a pivotal time in terms of international politics with the rise and fall of several major empires. We are witnessing a similar shift in global politics also with the advent of a newly confident and assertive China. But even more importantly, Jeremiah lived among a people who had turned their backs on God. And he was convinced they had to be told they would face dire consequences if they did not do an about turn. Keep reading

'Whole Gospel' needed in sexualized age

Evangelicals must proclaim the Christian sexual ethic and the 'whole Gospel' to an increasingly confused culture, Southern Baptist lead ethicist Russell D. Moore told pastors and others during a three-day leadership summit.

The president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) said fulfilling their God-given commission means Southern Baptists and other evangelical Christians must truthfully address the deception foisted upon people by the devil and his demonic forces.

"[I]f we tell the culture around us what we think they want to hear or if we practice the sort of selective universalism that tells them what they want to hear only as it relates to sexuality, we will not breed evangelism," Moore said April 22. "We will breed cynicism from a group of people who will say, 'If we cannot trust you to tell us the truth about your Gospel, then how can we trust you to tell us how to be resurrected from the dead.'"

Moore delivered one of the keynote addresses during the first ERLC Leadership Summit, which addressed the topic "The Gospel and Human Sexuality" April 21-23 in Nashville. Keep reading

See also
Sex-saturated culture addressed at summit

Friday, April 25, 2014

What Is Providence?

One way in which the secular mind-set has made inroads into the Christian community is through the worldview that assumes that everything happens according to fixed natural causes, and God, if He is actually there, is above and beyond it all. He is just a spectator in heaven looking down, perhaps cheering us on but exercising no immediate control over what happens on earth. Historically, however, Christians have had an acute sense that this is our Father’s world and that the affairs of men and nations, in the final analysis, are in His hands. That is what Paul is expressing in Romans 8:28—a sure knowledge of divine providence. “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

Immediately thereafter, Paul moves into a predestination sequence: “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified” (vv. 29–30). Then Paul concludes: “What then shall we say to these things?” (v. 31a). In other words, what should be our response to the sovereignty of God and to the fact that He is working out a divine purpose in this world and in our lives? The world repudiates that truth, but Paul answers this way.... Keep reading

The figure in the photo is one of two offering stands that archeologist Leonard Wooley discovered lying close together in the 'Great Death Pit" in the Royal Cemetery at Ur. Wooley named the figure the 'Ram in a Thicket' after the passage in Genesis 22:13.

Who are the false teachers?

The whole concept of false teachers and false teaching is one that makes many Christians squirm. We don’t like to think about the idea that there are people who are actively trying to deceive believers, to turn them away from the truth of the Christian faith. But all one has to do is look around at a Christian bookstore and you can see it—deception is present.

So who are they? Keep reading

Flocking to 'Other Christianities:' Like Seagulls to Trash Piles

In October 2012, I talked about a Smithsonian Channel documentary that examined a fourth-century papyrus fragment in which Jesus purportedly refers to His "wife."

At the time, I noted that even if it weren't a blatant forgery, there was ample reason to be skeptical about what the fragment purported to tell us.

Well, now the fragment is back in the news, and not only is skepticism about the fragment itself still warranted, but we should also ask ourselves what lies behind the continuing interest in the fragment and similar documents. Keep reading

See also
It’s Back — The “Gospel of Jesus’s Wife” and the State of Modern Scholarship

The Covert Thrill of Violence? Reading the Bible in Disbelief

One of the perils of being a middle-aged parent in England is that you have to attend school plays. By the time your children are in their mid-late teens, they no longer act in dubious juvenile versions of The Lion King, but any sense of safety this gives you is thoroughly spurious: they have been told by their drama teachers to do Shakespeare. However, Shakespeare in its raw form gives drama teachers cold feet, it seems. Thus it is that you can find yourself watching King Lear or Romeo and Juliet, but not in their tragic form: rather Shakespeare’s tragedies are played for laughs. The thing is, Mercutio’s agonised, dying, ‘A plague o’ both your houses! They have made worms’ meat of me’ does not really work as a gag. Trust me on this.

Now I have no doubt that the drama teacher who produced this comic adaptation of Shakespeare’s tragedy was doing her postmodern best: ‘witty’, ‘playful’, ‘imaginative’, ‘creative’, ‘rebelling-against-Shakespeare’s-patriarchal-authorship’, ‘the reader-as-empowered-author’. Yet other adjectives seem more appropriate: cruel and violent. ‘Cruel’ because to treat Mercutio’s death in this way is cruel and compassionless. ‘Violent’ because Shakespeare is not simply being gagged or silenced: he is being made a ventriloquist’s dummy and being made to say words of trivial cruelty. George Steiner long ago appreciated that some modern reading strategies had exactly this quality: they had the ‘covert thrill of violence’. ‘Violence’ because the reader make a ventriloquist’s dummy of the author against his or her will, and ‘covert’ because this is carried out under the cover of ‘witty’, ‘smart’, ‘playful’ and indeed ‘scholarly’ reading of the author.

Obviously, we see these techniques applied to the Bible too. Equally clearly, I do want to pick up on Don Carson’s brilliant book title The Gagging of God. Yes, there is a way in which God is silenced, but, going further, there is a sense in which our reading strategies make a ventriloquist’s dummy of God, not simply gagging him, but putting our words into his mouth and then treating our words as if they are his.

Why would we do that? Keep reading