Encouragement


As the 21st century begins to play itself out there is cause for encouragement. I recently attended the annual gathering of the Evangelical Fellowship of the Anglican Communion (EFAC-USA) in Orlando, Florida, of which the Fellowship of Witness was the forebear. Not only did TEC and ACNA Christians gather together for fellowship and faithful reflection, but EFAC is being led and shaped by an exciting younger generation of Episcopalians, many of whom are recent pilgrims on the Canterbury Trail, and strikingly mature.

From Richard Kew, in a recent issue of The Living Church. Three of this younger generation, Zac Neubauer, Philip Ryan and Ethan Magness (for ACNA), were elected to the board of EFAC USA at its recent meeting at Trinity School for Ministry, and have brought new energy and purpose to the board. Work on the next EFAC conference (April 4–7 2018, Canterbury Retreat and Conference Center, Oviedo FL), and several other  is in progress. More details on the new EFAC USA web-site soon!

wycliffe-only

The 2017 conference of Evangelicals in the Episcopal Church will be held at the Diocese of Central Florida’s Canterbury Retreat and Conference Center in Oviedo (just outside of Orlando), Florida, Wednesday April 19th – Saturday April 22nd.

All Evangelicals welcome—clergy and laity, egalitarian and complementarian, high church and low church, Episcopalian and non-Episcopalian.

More details to follow here and here!

The recent statement by the Anglican Primates is slightly more than I hoped for, and if the statements by Episcopal dignitaries and the comments on Episcopal blogs are worse than I feared, more fool me, I suppose. The Primates confirmed that ‘the traditional doctrine of the church in view of the teaching of Scripture’ (is it my imagination or there a faint tinge of regret discernible in the wording there?) ‘upholds marriage as between a man and a woman in faithful, lifelong union.’ Since that is the teaching of Scripture, albeit not in those words, Evangelicals will be pleased that these leading churchmen are willing to say so, and would apologise on behalf of the Episcopal Church for all the vitriolic comments being directed their way.

The statement also asks the Episcopal Church to limit its participation in some aspects of the Anglican Communion, and hopes for the appointment of a Task Group ‘to maintain conversation among ourselves [the Primates, presumably] with the intention of restoration of relationship’ etc. Restoration of relationships with the rest of the Communion presumably depends on a return to the Biblical view of marriage, and unlikely as that it is to happen, Evangelicals in the Episcopal Church must assume that God expects us to lift up our voices in support of that return.

Perhaps this is the place to begin discussing how we might do that, and how to be faithful in a church that seems less tolerant of us than ever. Perhaps there will be some time at the Evangelion II conference scheduled for May 28–30 in Ambridge, PA for further discussion.

I could certainly use a little encouragement…

 

Just finished browsing the latest issue of the Journal of Theological Studies, and found much to be thankful for. Of particular interest to the readers of this blog will be more reminders that the most reliable sources for knowledge of what Jesus actually did and said remain Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. This has been generally admitted by academic scholarship for some time, but has yet to percolate into the press, most seminaries, and too many pulpits. I find myself having to challenge the idea that it’s been conclusively proved that the New Testament was all made up in order to repress true Christianity two or three times a year; if you don’t, you’re shirking your duties.

So it’s great to read, for instance, that the latest and most authoritative commentary on the Gospel of Thomas confirms that ‘any relevance to historical Jesus research is negligible’ (p 805), and that ‘agreement in substance between… scholars with distinct perspectives may be indicative of the emergence of a majority opinion that considers the use of apocryphal gospels in historical Jesus research to be problematic’ (p 765).

Which isn’t to say that the early church wasn’t almost as theologically diverse as some would like to think; but it does confirm that Christians have been right to use the canonical gospels in order to discover what Jesus actually taught rather than what He was believed to have taught. It’s also good to be reminded that even this real diversity was less threatening to orthodox contemporaries than the revisionists try to convince us. Even that hammer of heretics, Irenaeus, ‘spent considerable energy urging the church, especially in Rome, to preserve its toleration for diversity’ (p 817).

Finally, news of a new book on the relationship between Science and Christianity by a Professor of Physics at Oxford University asserting in the most vigorous terms, which the reviewer found quite persuasive, that ‘the pursuit of science is a natural and important aspect of what it means to be a follower of Jesus of Nazareth’ (p 898). The writer, Andrew Steane, not only believes in the resurrection, but considers that the other miracles can be believed ‘on the basis of reliable testimony’, and argues that miracles do not contradict the findings of even the most up to date science (ibid). The title is Faithful to Science, and I can’t wait to read it.

Happy Thanksgiving!

bloke as future scientist w test tube etcMost Christians are a bit defensive when the latest developments in science are being celebrated, but Evangelicals often seem especially so. I’ve never worried much about any apparent contradictions between science and Scripture, since it seems pretty clear that the Bible was not given as a science text, and is bound to be misunderstood if treated as one. So it never occurred to me that thinking about the Bible in relationship to developments in science could actually be a spiritually positive thing, until I found the blog Undivided Looking.

The blog is run by Aron Wall, a postdoctoral researcher studying quantum gravity and black hole thermodynamics at UC Santa Barbara, and is not only the best internet resource on the relationship between physics and Scripture specifically, and science and religion generally, that I’ve yet come across, but also the best that dozens of others have come across, as comments on the blog show regularly. This is only the most recent of several memorable ones:

This site has quite literally been a Godsend to me.  I’ve always loved science but until about 5 years ago, I assumed you had put your brain on a shelf to be a christian.  No big bang, no creation, etc… I now look at science as learning about God, and He becomes more incredible to me every day!

It’s also a great read if you’re actually interested in the science; I’ve tried several introductions supposed to be helpful to the layman, most recently Peter Coles’s Very Short Introduction to Cosmology, but none of them were as helpful as Wall’s blog series on ‘Fundamental Reality’. Wall’s blog has several series of this sort, and I can also recommend ‘Did the Universe Begin?’ (start here, where there are links to all the preceding posts) and the still ongoing ‘God and Time’, first post here.

I’ve found that I need to set aside quite a bit of time, an hour or so, before tackling even a single post, but the result has sometimes been that I’ve understood not only some aspect of science, but some aspect of God’s word, for the first time. If you find the subject interesting, you’ll find the time well spent, and if you just want something to recommend to the next wise guy with a ‘science has disproved all that’, I don’t see how you could do better.

Tom IshamReaders of this blog will be familiar with the 19th century leader of the evangelical party in the Episcopal Church, bishop Charles Pettit McIlvaine, having read about him here and here. Tom Isham has a new article about McIlvaine in the latest issue of Crossway, the quarterly magazine of Church Society, arguing that he is America’s equivalent of England’s J. C. Ryle. Ryle is also familiar to our readers—too many posts about him to list here, type his name in our search box and you’ll find dozens.

More information about Crossway, including a subscription form, can be found here; the new issue also has articles on the life and ministry of Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, the advantages of long-term persistent expository preaching, an article on “preaching the negatives” as well as the positives, and a helpful look at the confusing subject of transgenderism, and how Christians should respond to it.

 

Lee Gatiss, in his second address to the recent conference of Evangelicals, described a recent survey of Evangelicals in the Church of England which discovered that not only is the evangelical community divided over whether evangelicalism is having an effect on the church, but that the same division is found in individual Evangelicals—that Evangelicals are suffering from a spiritual bi-polar disorder. We can go from fervent optimism to utter despair in a matter of hours. The cure, of course, is the gospel itself…

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