Archive for the ‘Protestantism’ Category

San Joaquin diocese leaves Episcopal Church

December 9, 2007

You knew it was coming; now we know when. The NY Times has a story on the split of the first full diocese to leave the Episcopal Church. Previous defections have been at the parish level.

One quotation caught my eye:

“It will be a huge, huge legal battle,” said the Rev. Ephraim Radner, a leading Episcopal conservative and professor of historical theology at Wycliffe College in Toronto. “The costs involved will bleed the Diocese of San Joaquin and the Episcopal Church, and it will lead only to bad press. You have to wonder why people are wasting money doing this and yet claiming to be Christians.”

Indeed, Rev. Radner. Fighting to keep one’s church following God’s word is “wasting money,” and “bad press” indicates unchristian conduct by those subject to the bad press—regardless whether the argument needs to be had and regardless of the actions that prompted the argument in the first place (e.g., consecrating an openly gay bishop). You have to wonder why other people are openly rejecting the Bible and yet claiming to be Christians . . .

Note, too, that Radner is described as a “conservative.” Fiscal conservative, maybe, since he shudders to think of all that money getting spent on something as immaterial as theology . . . but I have to wonder about the depth of his conservative credentials, if he’s trying to trivialize the ECUSA’s apostasy in order to make San Joaquin look like the bad guys.


ECT on the Blessed Virgin Mary

November 27, 2007

First Things is publishing a series of “preliminary papers” by members of the ecumenical project Evangelicals and Catholics Together (ECT). They are “currently engaged in studying what can be said together about the Blessed Virgin Mary.” The participants include some well known theologians from both sides: Edward T. Oakes, J.I. Packer, T.M. Moore, Matthew Levering, and Cornelius Plantinga. (The link above is to Oakes’s paper; here is Packer’s.)

The series should be worth the reading time. I found the paper by Oakes (on the Immaculate Conception) very interesting, with a lot of fascinating stuff from Pope Pius IX, Cardinal Ratzinger (now Benedict XVI) and Hans Urs von Balthasar. Essentially, he claims that if Mary was not immaculately conceived, her free consent at the Annunciation came (in however small part) from her own sinful nature, and not entirely from grace, thus making salvation history dependent upon a human action—“the very apogee of Pelagianism.”

Packer’s paper, however, was a real let-down. He sets Mary forth as a model of obedience, but spends nearly half the paper clearing his throat, listing his assumptions and letting us know he will not bother to defend them. The rest is, as he describes it, a “plain Bible study” of Luke (and John). More about Luke and his authorial methods than about Mary, I thought. And it doesn’t consider any of the soteriological questions that Oakes was concerned with. Boo. It is like he and Oakes are talking next to each other, but not to each other. Authorial freedom is great, but so is dialogue and discursive continuity.

Not surprisingly, Packer does not believe in any of the Catholic teachings on Mary. He almost seems to disagree on some level even with the Anglican Church’s handling of Mary: he says he has “been drilled” on the Magnificat, and that “England’s 1662 Book of Common Prayer teaches” him to celebrate Mary’s feast days—i.e., were it not for the BCP, it would not have occurred to Packer to give her that much liturgical attention.

NY Times on contemporary Christian music

November 6, 2007

There’s a decent article on the NY Times site talking about the growth of High Desert Church in Victorville, CA. It focuses particularly on the music ministry there, which to my mind seems simultaneously gigantic and sophisticated. I thought the writer was fair, and that the subjects came off very well; though you know the “typical” Times reader (if such a creature exists) will be expected to shudder after reading that the church was able to collect $20 million in member donations for a new building project. (I.e., with that kind of money, what CAN’T they do?)

I’d just like to comment on two parts of the article. The senior pastor says:

Message from God

November 5, 2007

church sign generator

Make your own at the Church Sign Generator site. Or just check out the very funny photos of real church signs. Like the Baptist church in Austin that claimed “UNDER SAME MGMNT OVER 2000 YEARS”. Now there’s a claim designed to start a debate! Or check out the Rambo-inspired Jesus billboard: “You drew first blood but I’ll be back.” NEEDS TO BE SEEN TO BE APPRECIATED.

Update: looks like the Rambo Jesus link doesn’t work . . . claims that by linking to it I’m “stealing bandwidth.” Whatever. Here’s the URL:

Contraception no longer a “non-negotiable” for Catholic bishops

October 31, 2007

This is what one Jerome Donnelly claims in a letter written to the NY Times. He is commenting on an article by Peter Steinfels that talks about the upcoming voter guide being prepared by the US Catholic Bishops.

Donnelly writes that contraception used to be denounced from pulpits as a non-negotiable, but now the bishops seem fixated on abortion:

Catholic practices have apparently led the bishops to become more reticent in denouncing artificial birth control; perhaps a comparable prudence should now be exercised in the case of abortion.

Two problems here: (more…)

Willow Creek Church planted in rocky soil?

October 30, 2007

Seems like big, big news on the evangelical megachurch scene:

Bill Hybels, pastor of Willow Creek Church in Illinois, claims (Hybels’ words in italics; article author’s commentary follows):

We made a mistake. What we should have done when people crossed the line of faith and become Christians, we should have started telling people and teaching people that they have to take responsibility to become ‘self feeders.’ We should have gotten people, taught people, how to read their bible between services, how to do the spiritual practices much more aggressively on their own.

[. . .] the error of the seeker sensitive movement is monumental in its scope. The foundation of thousands of American churches is now discovered to be mere sand. The one individual who has had perhaps the greatest influence on the American church in our generation has now admitted his philosophy of ministry, in large part, was a “mistake.” The extent of this error defies measurement.

But hey, look at the bright side: errors can be corrected. That’s what God gave us reason for.

More at

Bobby Jindal: “born-again Roman Catholic”

October 21, 2007

Thus is he dubbed by Adam Nossiter of the NY Times.

I am wondering what exactly a “born-again Roman Catholic” is, since I’ve not heard that term applied to Catholics. In my experience, it’s most strongly associated with Baptists. Does he mean he’s a Baptist-like Catholic? And if so, what does that mean? That he disobeys his bishop, and calls his own shots? (A Baptist friend tells me that this is an accurate description of Baptist thinking: the individual is best suited to determine and work toward his/her own spiritual good, and is thus not likely to listen to the ecclesiastical hierarchy. Baptist readers can correct her if this is wrong.)

For those who don’t click the link (i.e., everybody reading this), Jindal is the new governor of Louisiana. He’s a Republican and a Catholic convert, so hey, he’s okay in my book.

Traditional Anglicans to join Rome?

October 16, 2007

I don’t know how these things work, and don’t know anything about the Traditional Anglican Communion. Does it mean that the Roman Catholic Church may gain 400,000 new converts overnight? (Overnight being, of course, a relative term, not a literal one.)

16th October 2007
Statement authorised by the TAC Primate

” The College of Bishops of the Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC) met in Plenary Session in Portsmouth, England, in the first week of October 2007. The Bishops and Vicars-General unanimously agreed to the text of a letter to the See of Rome seeking full, corporate, sacramental union. The letter was signed solemnly by all the College and entrusted to the Primate and two bishops chosen by the College to be presented to the Holy See.
The letter was cordially received at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The Primate of the TAC has agreed that no member of the College will give interviews until the Holy See has considered the letter and responded.”
+ John

Microsoft’s “Halo” used to get kids an eternal halo

October 8, 2007

Interesting article in the NY Times about the phenomenon of Protestant churches using the video game Halo—in which the goal is to kill as much as possible—as an evangelization tool. At first I thought, why not? They already have the jumbotron TVs in every church. May as well use them on weekdays, too.

But seriously, as the article notes, this does seem to raise a legitimate question. How far is it advisable for a church to go to be considered “relevant” to youth (or to adults, for that matter)? Must they find exactly the same thing in church they find in the world at large? Someone in the article says that just because something draws teens into church doesn’t automatically mean it’s a good idea—and cites booze and porn as examples. Another claims that Halo is a necessary tool, because kids don’t play sports as much anymore. Perhaps, though, video games are more a cause of this, than a consequence? Maybe? I remember going to mid-week youth night at Concordia Lutheran. I was the biggest video game fan on earth, but still loved running around outside, going crazy. Might it be that the current crop of youth pastors have a Halo addiction? And are simply making a virtue of necessity? “Let’s see . . . gotta work at church on Wednesday night, which will cut into my Halo time—I know! Let’s bring Halo to church!”

Oh—and one guy is quoted as saying that playing Halo at church is “no different than camping.” Uh huh. Except for with Halo, you’re indoors rather than outdoors; Halo requires electricity and camping doesn’t; pizza places don’t deliver to campsites; and so forth. They’re virtually identical! What he means is that getting together with friends is getting together with friends, no matter what the place or circumstances. But this is really lame. A better analogy is that, if you are under 17, playing Halo at church is like getting someone to buy you and your friends beer. If you’re under 17 you are too young to legally purchase Halo or beer. (Problems with this analogy, of course, but it holds up better than the “camping” one.)

I’m not against Halo (I’m kinda hoping Joe rigs another Halo Nite!) but my gut feeling is that church is not the right place for that kind of entertainment. I wonder whether the Jews, Muslims, or Orthodox or Catholic Christians are doing anything similar. Or, if not, why this is a peculiarly Protestant trend.

Who says all Protestants ignore the Old Testament?

August 23, 2007

It’s not uncommon in my experience to find Protestants criticized for focusing more or less exclusively on the New Testament. But this article, entitled “Of Church and Steak,” (get it? we live in a theocracy headed by the ultra-pious George W. Bush, so it’s no wonder we can’t keep these things separate!), shows a “new breed” (ahem) of evangelical Christian: the kosher beef farmer. The North Dakota farmer profiled is named Scott Lively, and it’s all OT, all the time with him.

Mr. Lively adheres to a diet he believes Jesus followed. Like Mr. Wiesenfeld, he says the Bible prescribes that he use organic methods to respect the earth, treat his workers decently and treat the cattle that enter his slaughterhouse as humanely as possible.

“We learn everything from the Old Testament,” Mr. Lively said, “from keeping kosher to responsible capitalism.”

I reckon he means, “we learn everything about the cattle biz from the Old Testament,” since if he learned everything from it, he’d be Jewish instead of Christian. Even this, though, seems pushing it. This was the first I heard of capitalism in the ancient world, as well. Aside from loaves and fishes, and some wine, do we have any other record of Jesus’ diet? I can’t think of anything else, and beef is sounding kind of out of place, to my mind. Maybe I should check out The Maker’s Diet. (Or not.) Or listen a Joel Osteen sermon like “Living at your ideal weight.” (No longer available online, but it was last year. Who says that all Protestants pay attention to the Old OR New Testament?)

And if anybody has any idea where Lively gets the Biblical “prescription” to use organic methods, do tell!