Saturday, November 08, 2003

Lewis on Paul. Today's guest blogger is C. S. Lewis responding to the revisionists who seek to denigrate St. Paul and say that he has strayed from the message of Jesus:
The Impeachment of St. Paul

A most astounding misconception has long dominated the modern mind on the subject of St. Paul. It is to this effect: that Jesus preached a kindly and simple religion (found in the gospels) and that St. Paul afterwards corrupted it into a cruel and complicated religion (found in the epistles). This is really quite untenable. All the most terrifying texts came from the mouth of our Lord: all the texts on which we can base such warrant as we have for hoping the texts on which we can base such warrant as we have for hoping that all men will be saved come from St. Paul. . . There is no real evidence for a pre-Pauline doctrine different from St. Paul’s. The epistles are, for the most part, the earliest Christian documents we possess. The gospels come later. They are not “the gospel,” the statement of Christian belief. They were written for those who had already been converted, who had already accepted “the gospel.” The leave out many of the “complications” (that is the theology) because they are intended for readers who have already been instructed in it. In that sense the epistles are more primitive and more central than the gospels – though not, of course, than the great events which the gospel recount. . . In the earlier history of every rebellion there is a stage at which you do not yet attack the King in person. You say: “The King is all right. It is his ministers who are wrong. They misrepresent him and corrupt all his plans – which, I’m sure, are good plans if only the ministers would let them take effect.” And the first victory consists in beheading a few ministers: only at the later stage do you go on and behead the King himself. In the same way, the nineteenth-century attack on St. Paul was really only a stage in the revolt against Christ. . . . It was unfortunate that [the attack] could not impress anyone who had really read the gospels and the epistles with attention: but apparently few people had, and so the first victory was won. St. Paul was impeached and banished and the world went on to the next step – the attack on the King himself.
Matrix 3 is worth the 6 bucks I spent at a matinee. It can't hold a candle to the original, but it's better than number 2.

More later. In the meantime, was the fight scene in the rain (no spoilers -- it's all over the trailer) -- was that inspired by Akira Kurosawa's Seven Samurai?

The strange thing for me, leaving the theater, there was a guy who came out from the row across from me -- an Asian guy dressed in a full black cassock and putting on his sunglasses. He looked just like Sing Ngai as Seraph. Then I remembered the Catholic seminary down the street.
The Scariest Thing About the Matrix... for me wasn't the harvesting of humans for energy. Coppertops. After all, you'd expect that from machines.

It was that there is only one religion, one temple. James Lileks calls it "the Temple of No Particular Deity"

Hmmm... so the Episcopal Church and the Unitarians finally unite in the future?

Friday, November 07, 2003

New Coins. The announcement of new nickels yesterday by the Mint got me thinking, impishly, about wouldn't it be fun to have a new dime. We could do a series on the development of the law -- say ten designs to reflect the value of ten for the dime. Do one on, the Constitution, of course, and the Magna Carta and the Bill of Rights -- that ties in nicely with the theme of ten, since there were ten amendments to the Constitution set forth in the Bill of Rights. What else? The Decalogue, perhaps? Put Charlton Heston on the flip side and the collective ACLU will blow a gasket. heh-heh...

Yes, I am an imp.
Guest Blogger: Dorothy Sayers. Reading all the different essays and sermons, for and against, the ordination of VGR, there are still some more things I want to add. Maybe this weekend. One of the things I've seen is the disparagement of "dogma" by so many Robinson supporters -- even bishops and priests who should know better.

So I'm giving this space over to Ms. Dorothy Sayers for a rebuttal:
Official Christianity, of late years, has been having what is known as "a bad press." We are constantly assured that the churches are empty because preachers insist too much upon doctrine --"dull dogma," as people call it. The fact is the precise opposite. It is the neglect of dogma that makes for dullness. The Christian faith is the most exciting drama that ever staggered the imagination of man--and the dogma is the drama.

That drama is summarized quite dearly in the creeds of the Church, and if we think it dull it is because we either have never really read those amazing documents, or have recited them so often and so mechanically as to have lost all sense of their meaning. The plot pivots upon a single character, and the whole action is the answer to a single central problem: What think ye of Christ? Before we adopt any of the unofficial solutions (some of which are indeed excessively dull)--before we dismiss Christ as a myth, an idealist, a demagogue, a liar, or a lunatic--it will do no harm to find out what the creeds really say about Him. What does the Church think of Christ?

The Church's answer is categorical and uncompromising, and it is this: That Jesus Bar-Joseph, the carpenter of Nazareth, was in fact and in truth, and in the most exact and literal sense of the words, the God "by whom all things were made." His body and brain were those of a common man; his personality was the personality of God, so far as that personality could be expressed in human terms. He was not a kind of demon or fairy pretending to be human. He was in every respect a genuine living man. He was not merely a man so good as to be "like God"--he was God.

Now, this is not just a pious commonplace; it is not commonplace at all. For what it means is this, among other things: that for whatever reason God chose to make man as he is--limited and suffering and subject to sorrows and death-he [God] had the honesty and the courage to take his own medicine. Whatever game he is playing with his creation, he has kept his own rules and played fair. He can exact nothing from man that he has not exacted from himself. He has himself gone through the whole of human experience, from the trivial irritations of family life and the cramping restrictions of hard work and lack of money to the worst horrors -- of pain and humiliation, defeat, despair, and death. when he was a man, he played the man. He was born in poverty and died in disgrace and thought it well worthwhile.

Christianity is, of course, not the only religion that has found the best explanation of human life in the idea of an incarnate and suffering god. The Egyptian Osiris died and rose again; Aeschylus in his play, The Eumenides, reconciled man to God by the theory of a suffering Zeus. But in most theologies, the god is supposed to have suffered and died in some remote and mythical period of pre-history. The Christian story, on the other hand, starts off briskly in St. Matthew's account with a place and a date: "When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the King." St. Luke, still more practically and prosaically, pins the thing down by a reference to a piece of government finance. God, he says, was made man in the year when Caesar Augustus was taking a census in connection with a scheme of taxation. Similarly, we might date an event by saying that it took place in the year that Great Britain went off the gold standard. About thirty-three years later (we are informed) God was executed, for being a political nuisance, under Pontius Pilate"-much as we might say, "when Mr. Joynson-Hicks was Home Secretary." It is as definite and concrete as all that.

Possibly we might prefer not to take this tale too seriously --there are disquieting points about it. Here we had a man of Divine character walking and talking among us--and what did we find to do with him? The common people, indeed, "heard him gladly"; but our leading authorities in Church and State considered that he talked too much and uttered too many disconcerting truths. So we bribed one of his friends to hand him over quietly to the police, and we tried him on a rather vague charge of creating a disturbance, and had him publicly flogged and hanged on the common gallows, "thanking God we were rid of a knave." All this was not very creditable to us, even if he was (as many people thought and think) only a harmless crazy preacher. But if the Church is right about him, it was more discreditable still; for the man we hanged was God Almighty.

So that is the outline of the official story--the tale of the time when God was the underdog and got beaten, when he submitted to the conditions he had laid down and became a man like the men he had made, and the men he had made broke him and killed him. This is the dogma we find so dull--this terrifying drama of which God is the victim and hero.

If this is dull, then what, in Heaven's name, is worthy to be called exciting? The people who hanged Christ never, to do them justice, accused him of being a bore. On the contrary; they thought him too dynamic to be safe. It has been left for later generations to muffle up that shattering personality and surround him with an atmosphere of tedium. We have very efficiently pared the claws of the Lion of Judah, certified him "meek and mild," and recommended him as a fitting household pet for pale curates and pious old ladies. To those who knew him, however, he in no way suggested a milk-and-water person; they objected to him as a dangerous firebrand. True, he was tender to the unfortunate, patient with honest inquirers, and humble before Heaven; but he insulted respectable clergymen by calling them hypocrites; he referred to King Herod as "that fox"; he went to parties in disreputable company and was looked upon as a "gluttonous man and a wine-bibber, a friend of publicans and sinners"; he assaulted indignant tradesmen and threw them and their belongings out of the Temple; he drove a coach-and-horses through a number of sacrosanct and hoary regulations; he cured diseases by any means that came handy, with a shocking casualness in the matter of other people's pigs and property; he showed no proper deference for wealth or social position; when con-fronted with neat dialectical traps, he displayed a paradoxical humor that affronted serious-minded people, and he retorted by asking disagreeably searching questions that could not be answered by rule of thumb. He was emphatically not a dull man in his human lifetime, and if he was God, there can be nothing dull about God either. But he had "a daily beauty in his life that made us ugly," and officialdom felt that the established order of things would be more secure without him. So they did away with God in the name of peace and quietness.

"And the third day He rose again"; what are we to make of that? One thing is certain: if he was God and nothing else, his immortality means nothing to us; if he was man and no more, his death is no more important than yours or mine. But if he really was both God and man, then when the man Jesus died, God died too, and when the God Jesus rose from the dead, man rose too, because they were one and the same person. The Church binds us to no theory about the exact composition of Christ¹s resurrection body. A body of some kind there had to be, since man cannot perceive the infinite otherwise than in terms of space and time. It may have been made from the same elements as the body that disappeared so strangely from the guarded tomb, but it was not that old, limited, mortal body, though it was recognizably like it. In any case, those who saw the risen Christ remained persuaded that life was worth living and death a triviality--an attitude curiously unlike that of the modern defeatist, who is firmly persuaded that life is a disaster and death (rather inconsistently) a major catastrophe.

Now, nobody is compelled to believe a single word of this remarkable story. God (says the Church) has created us perfectly free to disbelieve in him as much as we choose. If we do disbelieve, then he and we must take the consequences in a world ruled by cause and effect. The Church says further, that man did, in fact, disbelieve, and that God did, in fact, take the consequences. All the same, if we are going to disbelieve a thing, it seems on the whole to be desirable that we should first find out what, exactly, we are disbelieving. Very well, then: "The right faith is, that we believe that Jesus Christ is God and Man. Perfect God and perfect Man, of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting. Who although he be God and Man, yet is he not two, but one Christ." There is the essential doctrine, of which the whole elaborate structure of Christian faith and morals is only the logical consequence.

Now, we may call that doctrine exhilarating or we may call it devastating; we may call it revelation or we may call it rubbish; but if we call it dull, then words have no meaning at all. That God should play the tyrant over man is a dismal story of unrelieved oppression; that man should play the tyrant over man is the usual dreary record of human futility; but that man should play the tyrant over God and find him a better man than himself is an astonishing drama indeed. Any journalist, hearing of it for the first time, would recognize it as News; those who did hear it for the first time actually called it News, and good news at that; though we are apt to forget that the word Gospel ever meant anything so sensational.

Perhaps the drama is played out now, and Jesus is safely dead and buried. Perhaps. It is ironical and entertaining to consider that once at least in the world's history those words might have been spoken with complete conviction, and that was upon the eve of the resurrection.

-Dorothy L. Sayers "The Greatest Drama Ever Told" (1963).

Thursday, November 06, 2003

Botched Operation: Jeff Jacoby learns from history.
Sportmanship. Here's a good column on sportsmanship and breaking records. The impetus for the column:
Nate Haasis got his little piece of history, too. But unlike Reaves or Sales or Strahan or James Wilder, if he had been successful, he gave it back. Haasis refused to accept the record for career passing yards in the Central State Eight Conference, of which his school, Springfield Southeast, is a member. Thanks, but no thanks.
He refused after he learned that both his coach and the opponent's coach had rigged things to not only let Haasis get a final opportunity but offer no resistance so he could complete the record-setting pass. Speaking for players "past and present," Haasis said he "felt disrespectful" to set the record that way and wanted no part of it. Then, in a letter to the conference, Haasis used such words as "integrity" and "sportsmanship."
[BTW, I agree with Joe Klecko's assessment of Michael Strahan at the end of the article.]

Here's more, more, and more.

I think the next generation(s) are going to blow the socks off the irrelevant Baby ("truth is relative") Boomers.

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

Matrix Regurgitated. Now for something other than VGR and the downfall of the Episcopal Church. (Yet, these can be related).

The Matrix Revolutions will hit the theaters tomorrow. I loved the first Matrix and hated strongly disliked the second. Why? It simply lacked internal consistency.

In "On Fairy-Stories," an essay by J. R. R. Tolkien, (first published in Essays Presented to Charles Williams, Oxford University Press, 1947) he explains:
Children are capable, of course, of literary belief, when the story-maker's art is good enough to produce it. That state of mind has been called “willing suspension of disbelief.” But this does not seem to me a good description of what happens. What really happens is that the story-maker proves a successful “sub-creator.” He makes a Secondary World which your mind can enter. Inside it, what he relates is “true”: it accords with the laws of that world. You therefore believe it, while you are, as it were, inside. The moment disbelief arises, the spell is broken; the magic, or rather art, has failed. You are then out in the Primary World again, looking at the little abortive Secondary World from outside. If you are obliged, by kindliness or circumstance, to stay, then disbelief must be suspended (or stifled), otherwise listening and looking would become intolerable. But this suspension of disbelief is a substitute for the genuine thing, a subterfuge we use when condescending to games or make-believe, or when trying (more or less willingly) to find what virtue we can in the work of an art that has for us failed.
The Matrix, the first Matrix, sustained the spell; the second one broke it.

Yes, I'll probably see the third one sometime, but I find that I'm very unenthusiastic about it.
not VGRImpressive Clergymen. Thanks to Cap'n Yip, err, Jack White (via CANN), we have a list of bishops present at the coronation (I really have trouble calling it a consecration).

Also, there is no truth to the rumor that Peter Cook will be playing V. Gene Robinson in a made for TV movie.

Mainly because Peter Cook is dead.
circle jerkWM Bishops. In all the pictures of the ordination of V. Gene Robinson, I have been struck by all the white male faces I'm seeing.

See for example, the pictures to the right and to the left showing the "laying on of hands" by the Episcopal Bishops. (BTW, does anyone know who was present for supporters of Robinsonthis abomination? Is there a list of the bishops? I know my Bishop, Peter James Lee, was busy doing his hair that day and couldn't be there, but apparently there were quite a few Bishops who wanted to publicly proclaim they were in favor of this.)

Where is all the celebrated Episcopal diversity I've been hearing about?

It's true, the Anglican communion is very diverse, geographically, ethnically, racially, culturally, and economic status. Yet, it's only the white male northern power structure that favors the disregard of the Scriptural norms in elevating Robinson to be a "bishop." The truly diverse portion of the Anglican communion which disagrees with this power structure has been ignored and marginalized.
"Strict Interpretation" A referral from the eminent Christopher S. Johnson leads to this article which states
An Episcopal rector has left the [Western North Carolina] Diocese, saying the church has strayed from strict interpretations of the Bible . . .
I feel compelled to note that one need not have a "strict interpretation[] of the Bible" to conclude the Robinson ordination was forbidden by the Scriptures. Kendall Harmon noted last week:
Walter Wink of Auburn Theological Seminary, who favors altering the church’s teaching in the area of sexual morality, [explained]: “Efforts to twist the text to mean what it clearly does not say are deplorable. Simply put, the Bible is negative toward same-sex behavior, and there is no getting around it.”
In fact, it takes a severely twisted reading of the Scriptures to conclude that it is permissible for a Bishop to have an ongoing sexual relationship outside of marriage.

Monday, November 03, 2003

The good... I'm trying to lead off with good news, because the bad news, below, has me feeling disturbed. At Truro Church yesterday, our Rector Martyn Minns was out -- he was in London for a regularly scheduled meeting of the Compass Rose Society. The good news was announced by one of the associate rectors, Marshall Brown: the prior week had been Stewardship Sunday and the number of initial pledges were only down by two families from last year. The good news is that the total pledges were up by over $220,000!
...the bad.... I've had three separate VGRco-workers confront me this morning about VGR. Because this is a work situation, there's not a lot of discussion, but the jist of each was best summed up by the first (who, by the way is an African-American Howard Dean supporter, debunking the notion that only the far-right is opposed to this), who asked me "What Bible do they read in the Episcopal Church?"

Another replied to the text of Archbishop Peter J. Akinola's statement that I e-mailed:
To allow this schism in the church in order to satisfy his [Robinson] personal desires is an act of selfishness that is beyond description. I have read the statement from the archbishop and think it is an argument well and truly made. If I were an Episcopalian my continued membership with the church would depend on whether it adhered to Christian principles, or political correctness.
The third response was the most disturbing for me. A co-worker (originally from a third-world country) said he will not have anything to do with me, beyond the minimal work contacts we have, until I've assured him I've left the Episcopal Church.
fumble...and the ugly. "Hello, Oakland Police Department? Yes, I'd like to report a kidnapping. I think some kids, probably a pre-school class, are holding the Raiders hostage. Even worse, they're dressing up like the team and trying to pass themselves off --"

"How long? Well, I thought it was a Halloween thing, but now that I think of it, the Raiders have been missing since mid-January..."

Sunday, November 02, 2003

This Day. For many Episcopal Churches, today, being the Sunday that All Saints Day was observed, was a day of baptisms and celebration and rejoicing. It was thus at my church, Truro Church.

In the Diocese of New Hampshire, however, it was a day of apostasy and heresy and schism. A large number of priests, bishops and laity, gathered to consecrate a ministry that can not be consecrated. A Bishop in the Church of Christ is called to a higher standard. A person living in an open, notorious and rebellious sexual relationship, out side the bounds of holy matrimony, should not and must not be elevated to the episcopal office of Bishop.

Not only has the person who assumed this office, V. Gene Robinson, violated the standards of the Christian Church, but so have all of those who have done all in their power to consecrate Mr. Robinson.

This is an abomination.

There is a point in the service of Baptism in which six key questions are posed. The are:
Question Do you renounce Satan and all the spiritual forces of wickedness that rebel against God?
Answer I renounce them.
Question Do you renounce the evil powers of this world which corrupt and destroy the creatures of God?
Answer I renounce them.
Question Do you renounce all sinful desires that draw you from the love of God?
Answer I renounce them.
Question Do you turn to Jesus Christ and accept him as your Savior?
Answer I do.
Question Do you put your whole trust in his grace and love?
Answer I do.
Question Do you promise to follow and obey him as your Lord?
Answer I do.
Accordingly, it seems fitting that on this day, I articulate the following:
I renounce the faction of the Episcopal Church which has set itself in opposition to the Word of God.
I renounce the teachings of the world that have been brought into the Church of God, Episcopal and have corrupted and destroyed its teachings and are destroying its members.
I renounce those desires which are plainly sinful, yet some have falsely called blessed.
I renounce the Presiding Bishop of the ECUSA, T. Frank Griswold.
I renounce the apostate Bishop V. Gene Robinson.
I renounce the schismatic Bishop of the Diocese of Virginia, Peter James Lee.
I renounce all Bishops, Laity, and Ministers who have called evil good and good evil.
I renounce the Diocese of New Hampshire (yet I do not renounce those faithful Saints of God living in the Diocese -- you have my prayers).
Nevertheless, all those, even Peter Lee, even Gene Robinson, even Frank Griswold, as well as their followers, disciples and minions, are not beyond the saving power of Jesus Christ. Accordingly, I call upon them to repent and seek to be restored to full fellowship with Christ Jesus.

Moreover, I acknowledge my own sinfulness and declare that I am in need of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. I put my whole trust in His grace and love. I do promise to follow and obey him as my Lord.

Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me, a sinner.