Sunday, March 17, 2019

Back to School already?

Sermon for the Second Sunday in Lent (Mattins)

Around about the end of July, many shops will proudly announce their new season called “Back to School”. Given that the school year has only just ended, it seems rather an unkind reminder for those who have to go back to school, especially teachers!

For many people, school days are not the best days of your life. There is a great fear in having to learn something, especially when you don’t want to learn that thing. When have you had to solve a quadratic equation in your life? When has your knowledge of ox-bow lakes or the chemical composition of sulphuric acid actually been useful beyond the pub quiz? Well, you never know…

What’s the point of learning things that you don’t want to learn?

[PAUSE]

One of the concerns that many have about religious belief is the idea that it indoctrinates people. We can certainly see how some Muslims are indoctrinated into beliefs that are damaging to themselves and certainly to others. Christians, too, are not immune and some people find themselves being bullied into belief by Christians who seem to derive their worth by forcing their religion on others. There is now such thing as spiritual abuse in which religious belief is used to control another for selfish or secular reasons, or even to enforce beliefs that aren’t actually necessary to the Christian Religion.

The process of Indoctrination involves teaching children a set of beliefs uncritically. What does that mean? Should we be allowed to question whether or not God exists? Should we be allowed to think that Our Lord and Saviour is not present in the Sacrament of the Altar? Of course, we should! It’s part of our human condition that we are free to question whatever is presented to us. God gives us free-will and we are not truly human unless we use it. Indoctrination is therefore dehumanising.

The son of Sirach talks of the benefits of pursuing the Wisdom of God. “Wisdom exalteth her children, and layeth hold of them that seek her. He that loveth her loveth life; and they that seek to her early shall be filled with joy. He that holdeth her fast shall inherit glory; and wheresoever she entereth, the Lord will bless.”

We are presented with good reason to seek after wisdom and this means careful study of the Holy Scripture and the teaching of the Church. What we do notice from this is that we are being presented with the choice whether or not to seek after this wisdom. Wisdom is there like the pearl beyond price lying hidden in the field. People will sell all that they have to possess it for the search for Wisdom is a search for God Himself and His wisdom is expressed perfectly by His Word – Our Lord Jesus Christ! “They that serve her shall minister to the Holy One: and them that love her the Lord doth love. Whoso giveth ear unto her shall judge the nations: and he that attendeth unto her shall dwell securely.”

Seeking wisdom is hard work but we know that because living is hard work especially in this sinful and fallen world. “If a man commit himself unto her, he shall inherit her; and his generation shall hold her in possession. For at the first she will walk with him by crooked ways, and bring fear and dread upon him, and torment him with her discipline, until she may trust his soul, and try him by her laws. Then will she return the straight way unto him, and comfort him, and shew him her secrets.” This is why we often dread learning: it challenges cherished beliefs and lifts us out of our comfort zones.

We can also fear learning because we can be shown up for being wrong. The fact that we are free to believe does mean that we can be wrong. The son of Sirach tells us that if we go wrong, Wisdom will forsake us, and give us over to his own ruin. “Observe the opportunity, and beware of evil; and be not ashamed when it concerneth thy soul. For there is a shame that bringeth sin; and there is a shame which is glory and grace.”

The beauty of the love of God means that if we go wrong, there is always a way back to Him. In healing the paralytic, Our Lord shows that sins can be forgiven very easily by God. In so doing, He shows up the wisdom of the Pharisees as being defective. Their love does not go far enough. The Pharisees will strain at a gnat in order to prove someone wrong and yet swallow a camel by refusing to see that it is love that fulfils the Law, not blind obedience to it.



If we can go wrong, if we can even doubt the existence of God Himself and thus be convinced to lose our salvation, how can we be certain of anything?

The answer is Faith.

[PAUSE]

Faith is a type of knowledge because it is given by God. We can doubt that He exists but then we need to turn to Him and ask for our faith to be strengthened. God is always approachable. Yes, our faith can be tested to breaking point but, that’s true of any belief that we have. Our knowledge is imperfect and the imperfect vanishes away when the perfect comes. What we think we know is only a shadow of what is. Our freedom to think can certainly challenge that Faith but if we are willing to recognise the Holy Ghost as the One Who walks alongside us albeit invisibly, then we always have the way to God.

This does mean that we need to be patient with those who go astray because it could so easily be we that go astray. No, we must not accept any heresy or deviation from the Wisdom of God, but we must recognise God’s gift of freedom of thought to everyone even if it means their rejection of God – that’s the pain of love. Our only recourse is to bear witness to the Faith that is once delivered to the saints revealed by Almighty God written for our edification and taught by those who seek His Wisdom in humility and love. And let us use our Lent to go back to school and learn the Truth of God in Faith, Hope and Love.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Publishing publishing

I have just taken the unusual step of deleting the Stations of the Cross that I blogged in 2011, shortly after my departure from the CofE.

This is because I have published them in book form for £3 from Lulu.

I have been trying to publish more books that I have found in bits and pieces on my laptop before another change in my life occurs, hence the flurry of activity. It's a sort of mental spring-clean or intellectual download, I suppose.

I am very grateful for the patronage of so many people who find worth in what I write and hope that they might continue to find some aspect of God therein.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

#GodToo

Sermon for the First Sunday in Lent (Mattins)

What does God make of the #MeToo campaign?

In recent years, we have seen high profile figures accused and convicted of horrible abuses of their power and influence. While this is horrible in itself, the fact that many of these abuses have been at the hands of leaders within Christ’s Church is clearly rocking the faith of so many people. It’s understandable that members of the clergy are being regarded with suspicion and that the loss of trust in the Church is growing.

Yet, we also have the other problem of false accusation in which people’s lives are blighted by mistaken, misunderstood or even malicious individuals. The destruction to an innocent person’s reputation by false accusation is devastating even if there is a clear proof of innocence.

A proof of innocence? Surely, it’s innocent until proven guilty. If only members of society would remember that…

So what does God say to those who cry #MeToo?

[PAUSE]

“Whatsoever is brought upon thee take cheerfully, and be patient when thou art changed to a low estate.For gold is tried in the fire, and acceptable men in the furnace of adversity.”

That sounds very much like a slap in the face for anyone who has suffered abuse or has been wrongly accused. Does this mean that we are to roll over and just take the abuse?

If we know anything about God, it is that He is good and righteous. We believe that He will come to be our judge. All the way through Holy Scripture, we learn of His fairness from hearing the blood of Abel crying from the ground, granting the barren Sarah a son while yet comforting Hagar, restoring Job’s fortune, restoring the sight of the blind, up to the glorification of the Faithful in the Revelation of St John the Divine. Do we think that God does not hear the complaints of those who have been denied justice?

The fact of the matter is that in the act of becoming Christians, we have to be prepared for our faith to be tested. “If thou come to serve the Lord, prepare thy soul for temptation. Set thy heart aright, and constantly endure, and make not haste in time of trouble.Cleave unto him, and depart not away, that thou mayest be increased at thy last end.” This is why the Bishop gives each candidate a little slap when they are confirmed to remind them of this. As far as this life is concerned there will always be injustice. True justice can only be meted out by the hand of God Himself Who alone is in possession of all the facts. To forget that and seek our own judgment is an act of faithlessness in God.

[PAUSE]

But we have been given law by which crimes and injustice can be shown for what they are. No human being should ever have to undergo sexual harassment or any form of abuse. Perpetrators of abuse must be punished, and God’s Love for both victim and perpetrator will ensure that this will happen. But we have to keep faithful and not become vigilantes seeking our own punishment on those who have abused us. The #MeToo movement highlights two injustices – the silencing of those who have been abused and those who have had their lives ruined by what amounts to being guilty until proven innocent. Neither is acceptable and yet the balance is very difficult to strike. We cannot sacrifice the principle of “innocent until proven guilty” for any reason for otherwise we will find ourselves back in slavery to those whose whims declare what guilt and innocence are, and thus throwing God aside in favour of man-made laws which have caused so much suffering in the past.

We forget, however, that the rule of law is God’s gift to us, and we must learn to trust it and use it appropriately.

We can look at the examples of the saints like St Oscar Romero shot while saying Mass after asking the United States to stop arming the corrupt Salvadoran Government during the Civil War, or like St Martin of Porres who through patience overcomes the racial discrimination which prevent him from taking Religious Orders and serving the poor in Peru, or like St Damien of Molokai who would rather succumb to leprosy than allow the voice of those shunned by Society on account of their disease.

The approach of the saints is a preparation to suffer injustice in order to achieve justice – a greater justice that pours down from the Throne of God. Our duty, as Christians, is to observe the two commandments that Our Lord gives us. When faced with injustice we turn to God first in prayer and pray, pray, pray so fervently that it hurts. Then we look at people, not at abstract laws and theoretical precepts and we seek true justice. While those who abuse and hurt and murder must and will be punished, every Christian must look for the good of all people, for each and every one of us is a victim of Sin either by being on the receiving end of it or by committing it. Humanity cannot simply be divided up into those who are oppressed and those who are oppressors because oppression by Evil does not work that way. We are all victims of Evil, and it is this injustice that is resolved through the Cross of Christ. Our motivation for justice must spring from Love and not a desire for power.

Our Lord is baptised in order to associate with everyone whom Evil touches. He identifies with sinners so that sinners can be identified with Him and find in Him, not only justice, but mercy, peace and love too. Ultimately, we will fall into the hands of the Lord, and not into the hands of men: for as his majesty is, so is his mercy.

Sunday, March 03, 2019

Where Wisdom may be found

Sermon for Quinquagesima Sunday (Mattins)

We are very familiar with those three visitors who appear in our Nativity Sets. We hear them called Magi, three kings or the three wise men. You don’t doubt that they are wise because they have the sense to follow the star of Bethlehem to find Our Lord.

Is it wise, then, to follow your horoscope in the paper? After all, that is what the Magi are doing in some sense?

Is it wise to give up all that is familiar to you and strike out a living alone based on vague promises of wealth and happiness? After all, this is what Abraham does.

You can probably think of situations in which it is wise to do things which, at the time, seem strange, uncomfortable or just plain stupid. And there are times when it is strange, uncomfortable and just plain stupid to keep carrying on as we are. If you’ve been living in a tent on the same bit of ground for the past ten years and you hear reports of a tornado, do you stay where you are?

It seems that wisdom is something very desirable for us to have. But what is it?

[PAUSE]

There are several books in Holy Scripture which are described as being Wisdom literature: they are meant to sow wisdom in the people who listen carefully. These are the books of Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, the Song of Songs, which we sometimes call the Song of Solomon, the Book of Wisdom, often called the Wisdome of Solomon, and Ecclesiasticus which is often called the Wisdom of Jesus the Son of Sirach, or just Sirach for short. In these books we find lessons in the nature of suffering, how to sing to God, good ideas for godly living. Even how to fall in love! Surely, though, the human race has been doing all these things without the need for the Bible. Why do we need this Wisdom Literature?

What many people don’t know is that the Wisdom of Sirach has a prologue in the Greek Old Testament written, apparently, by the grandson of Jesus the Son of Sirach. He says, “Many great teachings have been given to us through the Law and the Prophets and the others that followed them, and for these we should praise Israel for instruction and wisdom. Now, those who read the scriptures must not only themselves understand them, but must also as lovers of learning be able through the spoken and written word to help the outsiders.” What we see is that what we understand by wisdom is completely bound up in the Scriptures and the study of the bible. And this makes sense. Job may tell us about his suffering, but the book of Job is something deeper than that. It may not answer directly the question “why do bad things happen to good people?” but a careful study of it reveals much into human nature and how we approach people who are in pain and misery. Further, it reveals a God Who is not absent but rather takes pride in those who love Him.

Likewise, the Song of Songs may appear risqué but we see how God fits in to the business of human relationships. In all Wisdom literature, we find recorded the plain fact that Wisdom is the life lived in the fear of God. Of course, by “fear” we can certainly understand the sense of awe and worship when we are face-to-face with the Creator of the Universe. We have to let that fear into our lives because it is a fear that encourages pure love. It is not a fear that destroys it.

[PAUSE]

Wisdom is for every Christian. It is not just for those who are clever, have lots of degrees, or have written many books. We must remember that the Wise King Solomon was tempted into idolatry by his six hundred wives. Indeed, we live in a time when the most intelligent and most academic of people encourage us to give up on God and on our religion. There are even those who lead the Church who seek to draw us away from God by embracing the things of this world – they, too, are modern versions of Solomon. Wisdom is for us all. It is enshrined in Scripture and in the Tradition that arises from and interacts with it, and our fear and love for God compels us to receive it.

[PAUSE]

Lent is the perfect time for sharpening our Wisdom through careful study of the Scriptures, but we do need to ask God for His Wisdom first so that we don’t acquire the wisdom of the world that will reject Him. We should fear that we don’t love God enough and it will be this fear that drives us to know Him better. We remember that we are dust and unto dust shall we return, and we remember that God has given us the Scriptures and the Holy Ghost that we might go beyond our dust and into Eternal life in His love.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Shameless Publicity

I have, over the course of the past three years, been busy on a couple of projects for my Diocese and my bishop.

I am pleased to say that I have been able to publish both of these books and invite interested readers to take a look for themselves by clicking on the links below.

Anglican Catholicism: Unchanging Faith in a Changing World

Whom Seek Ye?



Sunday, February 24, 2019

Goodness out of Eden

Sermon for Sexagesima (Mattins)


It seems rather mean to punish all snakes for the action of just one.


It seems rather mean to punish all men and women for the actions of Adam and Eve.


It may seem mean, but is it? How would we know?


[PAUSE]


The consequences of the Fall are far reaching. Adam and Eve are expelled from Eden. This means that all of their children will be born out of Eden, too. If Adam and Eve are the parents of all humanity, then we are all born outside of the place where once mankind walked and talked with God as friends. If we are born out of Eden, then we are born needing the grace of God to find that place again. Human beings must live their lives out in this state of separation from God. We are not left without His love, but our every action can lead us further from Him. We have this knowledge that Good and Evil exist, but do we have the ability to tell the two apart when we are so separated from the true Goodness that is God?


If we are separated from God by the Fall, then we cannot be sure. How can we judge angels and men as St Paul tells us? How can we be salt for the world if we have lost our saltiness? How can we be judges if we are so fallen?


[PAUSE]


It is clear that Christians can behave unjustly to each other. St Paul sees the Corinthians taking each other to court. Our Lord sees His disciples arguing about who is the greatest and whether someone else who is not a disciple can be truly following Jesus. Our judgement is impaired through living outside Eden and it is impaired because we only think we know what Good and Evil are. If we truly did know Good and Evil, then we would want to cut Evil out from the very heart of our being even at great cost to ourselves.


We are no different in this day and age. The Episcopal Church in America has been engaged in lawsuit after lawsuit in much the same way that St Paul saw in Corinth. We see the Church of Rome and the Church of England reeling from the scandal of priests who seem to have forgotten that offending against children and exploiting the vulnerable brings about a punishment so terrible that being drowned with a millstone around the neck would be infinitely preferable. We, too, must be careful as our own sins are no less offensive. All sin is offensive. All sin deepens our separation from God.


[PAUSE]


What can we do? We cannot work our way back into Eden. We are completely unable to amend our lives with our own knowledge of Good and Evil. It is that very knowledge of Good and Evil that sees us thrown out of Eden in the first place.


The only way is through Christ Himself. We must put on Christ, join ourselves to Him and not wander from what He teaches. Through Baptism, we are incorporated into the Body of Christ which can step past the Seraph with the flaming sword guarding the entrance to Eden. Yet, even if we are Baptised, this will not save us if we stick to our own ideas of what Good and Evil are. God tells us what Good and Evil are. So many Christians these days think that fornication is Good, or try to reason that they have not committed it when they have. An act of fornication might be forgivable, but if we don’t believe that it is sinful, how can we be joined to Christ and be with Him in Paradise? Can two walk together except they be agreed?


[PAUSE]


We are not saved by the Law. We are saved through the Grace and Love of God and this means we cherish what He decides is Good and has been Good from before the beginning of the Universe. Evil separates us from Him; Good binds us to Him and it means that we must cultivate goodness in our hearts.


The beauty of penitential seasons like Lent is that we have an opportunity to listen to what God calls Good and pursue that, cutting out of our lives anything that tears us away from Him. If we accept what God calls good then we will not offend His children and cause them to stumble. By clinging on to Christ Himself in Scripture and in Sacrament, we will re-enter Eden and regain that wonderful life that we once had with God.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Begin the begin

Sermon for Septuagesima

In the beginning…

What’s so controversial about that?

Given the much-hyped conflict between Science and Religion, it’s easy to overlook one simple thing: both Science and Christianity make the claim that there was a beginning. We might argue about the nature of that beginning, but we’re agreed that our existence has a beginning. It’s quite reasonable, then, to ask what began that beginning. Whatever began that beginning cannot have had a beginning and must always exist, can’t be made of matter, and must have made a clear choice to begin the beginning. Whatever many modern scientists may say, the belief in our Creator God is rational, reasonable and very plausible. It takes a lot of complex argument to come up with an alternative and, despite their best efforts, no-one – and certainly not Stephen Hawking - has really succeeded.

[PAUSE]

Today, Septuagesima, is the Scriptural New Year. Seventy days before Easter, we begin at the beginning again, reflecting on God’s creative power. Why today though?

As we prepare for the discipline of Lent, we need to go back and remember what we are trying to achieve in Lent. The fasting of Lent may prepare ourselves for Easter but we need to prepare to prepare. We can’t just embark upon a fast that we choose. All things must begin with God and His Creation. We often forget to do so, though. Human beings have been very good at creating their own gods. While the golden calf and the bronze serpent have been consigned to the bin of idolatry, we still have a tendency to want God to be what we make Him out to be. The god we make is often the one who either turns a blind eye to our sins, or makes it so that we haven’t really done any wrong. If we want to find out the God we worship, then we need to see Him as He is, away from our own biases and preconceptions, away from all that we see around us, away from all the things that influence us. We need to go right back to basics. We need to go to the beginning.

What do we see there, in the beginning?

[PAUSE]

In the beginning, we see God. In the beginning is His Word. In the beginning, we see His Spirit moving over the face of the waters that He has just created. We see the Father, Son and Holy Spirit already there before any thing exists. This is what God tells us about Himself as we read the Holy Scriptures. He tells Moses, “I AM.” He tells the Scribes and Pharisees that, before Abraham was, “I AM.” There, in the darkness before the light comes, there is God.

Then comes Creation: heavens, earth, waters, light, firmament, seas and land, grass and herb and tree, sun, moon and stars, animals, cattle and Man. At each stage, God reveals more about Himself. All of His creation is good – very good!
In the very act of creating things, God reveals to us what is good. Goodness comes from God – it does not come from us. Goodness is not made up by Society. For God to say that His creation is good means that Goodness must be there in the beginning before Creation. In the beginning we see that God is good, and goodness is part of who He is.
And this is where Septuagesima comes in.

[PAUSE]

During Lent, we tend to look at what’s good for us. We tend to call the shots by giving up chocolate or television, or taking up exercise or reading, which we do because that’s what we think will be good for us. But do we approach Lent selfishly, seeking our own way of discipline in getting back to God? That’s what many people do, using it as an excuse to find some accomplishment like Movember, or Veganuary, or a month without alcohol. What people outside the Church don’t know is that Christians take up Lent for the love of God, and that this means going right back to the beginning with Him. These weeks of the Gesimas are an opportunity for us to make that preparation to begin again, to return to God in prayer and look at ourselves with Him, seeking how we may make our Lent with His involvement.

[PAUSE]

Can we really begin again? Of course we can! Look, God promises us a new heaven and a new earth if we will but be faithful to Him. He is willing to begin again just as we should want to begin again. The Benedictines have a saying - always we begin again. Each day is new and God always wants us to begin with Him.

This is how we must live life: begin at the beginning until we come to the end and then stop. If God is with us in the beginning, then He’ll be with us at the end, too. You can be sure of that!


Thursday, February 14, 2019

The Continuum Blog: a rapprochement

The Continuum Blog: a rapprochement

I suppose it’s a psychological quirk of Anglo-Catholics to be looking back at the past. I like to look back at some of my old posts and see how I have changed.

For once I have done what I don’t normally do: I have deleted a post which no longer serves a purpose.

About a decade ago, I had a falling out with those who run the Continuum Blog over the desires of the TAC to enter into dialogue with the Church of Rome. I was (and presumably still am, I very much hope) friends with one of the TAC proponents of the Ordinariate, though we haven’t spoken in years. I found the language that was being used to be unacceptable and so I made my thoughts plain.

Now, some ten years later, things have changed. For starters, I joined the Anglican Catholic Church to which the Continuum blog owners either belong or are in communio in sacris following the wonderful concordat signed. Secondly, I have climbed down from my rather rarefied position as a Tridentine Anglican Papalist for the simple reason that I came to realise that I was trying to hold on to ideas which I could no longer in conscience defend. I will still call myself an Anglican Papalist only in a much more nuanced sense but I do have to concur that the Ordinariate is not the way for the Anglican to find communion with the Holy See.

Given that the owners of the Continuum Blog are American and I am painfully English, I know that they will take issue with my stance on the Book of Common Prayer. What we certainly do have in common is that we have had to fight and fight hard. We fight, however, on different battle grounds. We cannot expect the cavalry to be expert in the care and use of cannons any more than we can expect the artillerymen to work in combative livery.

To all intents and purposes, the most recent battle for the Continuum Blog is over: they have stated their position with regard to those who leave behind their Anglicanism at the door of the Personal Ordinariate. I cannot blame that exodus in any way, but am rather grieved that they found Rome to be the only solution. However, I do believe the Continuum Bloggers were right to call them out on this even if I do not appreciate the language used. I have benefitted greatly from their wisdom and learning and sorely wish that my own was up to their standard.

In the UK, I am still engaged in battle. We have not the resources of the ACC in the United States, and we have the three big Churches that overshadow us massively, namely Canterbury, Rome and Mammon though I do seriously wonder, sometimes, whether the first and the last are the same. That being said, I also wonder where the second is heading given the bizarre antics of the Patriarch of the West. The Continuum Bloggers are used to being big hitters because they have fought for a quarter of a century longer than we have here in Blighty. We have a lot of work to do here, and it is an uphill struggle and solidarity from our brethren across the pond is vitally important.

Given that I am now in the same fold as the Continuum Bloggers, I feel that the time is right for me to offer the re-establishment of contact with my confraternity over the water. Actually, I think this is something that I should have done a long time ago. Nonetheless, I offer this blog post as an olive branch in the hope that, even if we can’t agree on our positions, we remain part of the same communion and have the same goals as befits the Continuing Churches. I hope, therefore, that my readership will take advantage of the wealth of learning resources on the Continuum Blog and that it may continue in its course of edification and education.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Custard Pies, Spacetime, Joy and Brexit





Joy, beautiful spark of Divinity,
Daughter from Elysium,
We enter, drunk with fire,
Heavenly One, thy sanctuary!
Your magic binds again
What convention strictly divided;
All people become brothers,
Where your gentle wing abides.

Who has succeeded in the great attempt,
To be a friend's friend,
Whoever has won a lovely woman,
Add his to the jubilation!
Indeed, who even just has one soul
To call his own in this world!
And whoever never managed, he should steal away
Crying from this union!

All creatures drink of joy
At the nature's breasts.
All Just Ones, all Evil Ones
Follow her trail of roses.
Kisses she gave us and grapevines,
A friend, proven in death.
Salaciousness was given to the worm
And the cherub stands before God.

Gladly, like His suns fly
through the heavens' grand plan
Go on, brothers, your way,
Joyful, like a hero to victory.

Be embraced, Millions!
This kiss to all the world!
Brothers, above the starry canopy
There must dwell a loving Father.
Are you collapsing, millions?
Do you sense the creator, world?
Seek him above the starry canopy!
Above stars must He dwell.

The Anthem of the European Union nonetheless!

Of course, with Brexit looming, the UK’s relationship with the EU is certainly uncertain and complex. These are strange days politically and we face some very strange times ahead. The media is simply oversaturating our lives with stories about what we can expect and this divided media is polarising our country with this oversaturation. We find ourselves divided among ourselves. Media is a house divided; Parliaments is two houses divided; the CofE is a house divided. And when a house is divided, the question must be asked, “how can this house stand?”

Clearly, many of us are affected by these deepening divisions. Ex-patriots are facing a serious blow to their personal identity; companies are being sold cheaply to overseas buyers; the person on the street is worrying about how life can go on as normal after the threat of a no-deal Brexit. And with the noise of the divided media, the problem comes down to this: in facing such an uncertain future, whom can we believe?

How about this?
Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.

We keep looking at the future and we forget to be ourselves here and now. We lose our existence as beings of the present moment. And in the present moment there can be joy!

My Bishop, the Rt Rev Damien Mead, has to juggle his sacred duties with his secular duties – indeed, he, like every Christian, sanctifies his secular duties by bringing them into God. Like all bishops, his burden is onerous. Yet, I notice he still finds joy enough to take a custard pie in the face all in the cause of charity. Here, in amid the heavy concerns of pastoral duty, there is joy in the present moment.

Our Lord is deadly serious, sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. He bids us to be present to Him in the here and now as we stand before Him in the throes of sin, or throes of repentance. Of course, we Catholics do not regard the present moment as a detachment from the rest of Time but rather set within it as an interface between past and future both of which have existence in the mind of God but also imperfectly within our own minds as memory and expectation.

We are faced with demons of the past and of the future which contribute to our regrets and fears constantly and also numb us to our interconnectedness in History. Today, we have such a forensic attitude to History and such a Statistical attitude to what is to come. We always see ourselves as the observers aloof to both the past and to the future until it they both conspire to impact into our daily lives.

Whatever Time actually is, whether it is an attribute of God’s being or a creature as utterly subordinate to the Divine command as we are, whatever its purpose is, perhaps a mechanism whereby we have an arena to understand how we exercise our free-will and imago Dei, it is something which exists for our Good and for the fulness of our Humanity. That’s something we forget. And we allow both our experiences of the past and our hopes and fears for the future to make us who we are, forgetting that it is God who makes us who we are, above the shrill screeches of vanquished Evil.

As Space is to Art and Sculpture, so Time is to Music and Speech.



A Musician presents a score as a spatial representation of a work that has its expression in Time. Likewise, we experience a painting in snapshots of Time as our senses experience it. Time and Space are always mixed within our lives – both produce the canvas for our existence. Our Eternity with God as Creations of God will be this interplay of Time and Space perfected. How we temporal beings are to experience this extra tempore I don’t know. One suggestion is that, in creating Time, God has necessarily entered into Time and thus travels with us as the only One with the roadmap of the future. I’m not convinced by that, personally – it makes God too small.

Indeed, any understanding of God that we have is too small. His revelation to us sets some impression of how our relationship is to work. His changelessness means that His Holiness is changeless and thus the nature of Sin is changeless, so the relationship that we have to God is clear for our limit understanding. Yet, God stands beyond our thinking and has the capacity to do things that we can find incomprehensible. He is more terrifying, more unpredictable, more unknowable than our Future, more challenging, more exacting, more revealing than our Past. And that’s why we have to learn to trust Him.

This period of uncertainty presents us with a single challenge to trust in God, face both past and future and be joyful. We have to rejoice in the Lord alway. The way we rescue our pasts and our futures is by learning to be joyful once more. This may sound very existential as if we were Camus’ Sisyphus, and in some sense we really do have to cock a snook at Evil by daring to be joyful despite what it throws at us. But we do so always in context for we cannot disjoint ourselves from either past or present. To be Catholic means to mourn with the martyrs in their torture and to exalt in their witness to God. We shudder at the dismemberment of St James Intercisus, the disembowelling of St Elmo, and at the appalling choice that faced St Gianna Beretta Molla who chose her death rather than that of her unborn daughter and we remember with joy that these have overcome Evil at the very source. Their agonies are past: their present is an Eternal Now with their Creator.

Our agonies are to come, but we are given time to be with God and develop our trust in Him. No, this is not going to be easy and we are weak. Nonetheless, we trust God even when things seem black and we rejoice – we rejoice as best we can, presenting before God every single little things that He has given us with gratitude and humility. There is always something there, even if it is a single painless breath that we once took ten years ago. Our loved one dies, and yet there is a joy that we knew them at all. We fall into poverty, and there is a joy that we have enjoyed a little wealth at some point. We lose our health, and there is a joy that we once ran and jumped and played with abandon. These joys may exist in the past but, in sacrificing them to God we find ourselves sanctifying them for the joy of every human being, past, present and future that they may share in their joy and we in theirs and all may share in the joy of God which is always Now, Now, Now!

I do worry about how Brexit will affect my family, their growth and education and livelihoods and I have fears for my own future too. However, I intend, with the help of my Creator, to walk through the door that leads into Tomorrow with my head held high and all my hope set on Him and Him alone in His ineffable Eternity. There may be trouble ahead, but while there’s moonlight and music and love and romance…

So let’s bring on Brexit, and live dangerously trusting in God!

Sunday, February 10, 2019

The repentance of tops and magnets

Sermon for the fifth Sunday after Epiphany (Mattins)


Did you know that, according to St Matthew, the first word of Our Lord’s ministry is “Repent!”?


That seems to be the central theme of all of the prophets of the Old Testament and, indeed, all of the apostles of the New. Throughout human history, there is this clear, uncompromising call – Repent!


Does God need to repent?


[PAUSE]


The prophet Amos seems to report that God does need to repent. Twice, God threatens Israel with punishment; twice Amos begs the Lord to forgive Israel; and twice the Lord repents with the words, “this shall not be.” How are we to understand this? Can God sin?


[PAUSE]


Clearly not. How can God separate Himself from Himself? That doesn’t make sense. Perhaps then, repentance is not really about sin and evil.


The prophet Amos records for us his conversation with God. Like Abraham, he pleads for God for other people. Abraham manages to persuade God to spare Sodom if there can be found ten righteous people within the city. Similarly, Amos seems to persuade God from bringing pestilence and fire upon Israel.


We do have to remember that God is omniscient. This means that He knows all that is possible to know. And, if you think carefully, this does mean that He knows not just what is and was and will be, but what could have been, what could be, and what could happen. God knows all the possible consequences and outcomes of every situation. He can speak of possibilities as well as reality.


For the sins of Israel, God could let grasshoppers consume Israel; He could burn up Israel by fire and He knows the outcome. This shows us very clearly that faithless Israel deserves these punishments. Anyone who forsakes the Lord God deserves terrible punishment. This is what God wants us to know, but see how He is open to be persuaded from such a course of action. It’s clear that God does not want to abandon Israel and that He wants to give Sodom every chance to return to Him. There will, however, come a time when there will be no opportunity to do so. Sodom falls, and Israel is led into captivity.


And this is what is essential if we want to know what repentance really is. God turns His eyes from what is His right to exercise punishment, but rather seeks to rescue Israel from Evil through the bringing down of the wicked rulers of Israel and the source of Evil. God repents by turning away His eyes from the possibility of vengeance to the reality of His love. In so doing, He shares with us what could be, but shows us that He turns Himself to us in love and in truth.


God repents by turning toward us as we are in our sinfulness, and bids us turn to him away from that sinfulness. Repentance is about the changing of the mind to what is good and loving and true. It’s clear that God does not want to lose any one of His children, and Holy Scripture is filled with God confronting sinners with the truth of sin and evil, but also with His divine forgiveness and unconditional love seeking our transformation into beings of love, light and truth. Every time we turn from God, He steps in front of us with the same message of love. We just have to turn to Him away from all sin and evil.


[PAUSE]


Sometimes, we seem to be like tops spinning around and around on the spot trying to avoid looking at God in order to follow our own selfish desires. All we need to do is to stop and turn to Him and allow Him to draw us to Himself. We need to be less like tops and more like magnets aligned to our Creator.

Monday, February 04, 2019

Sex and Tolerant Conservatism


Many moons ago, I was introduced by John Beeler to the notion of Tolerant Conservatism, to wit:

Charity and discretion about people’s failings while at the same time not making excuses for those vices either.

The point of the Catholic Faith is to demonstrate what sin is and thus show people who have ears to hear how they have sinned. It is also very much supposed to be a reassurance that, despite one’s sin, God’s love always offers a way back without damnation. We can always be restored to righteousness with no conditions except that we desire to be restored to righteousness wholeheartedly.


I find this incredibly healthy. Even today, I see too many people sit in judgment over other. This judgment is not the same as God’s Judgment: Man’s judgment springs from law which can only say where we have gone wrong; God’s judgment puts things right.


This is why I am so wary of the Liberal movement and its successor – the Progressive movement – both within the Church and in secular society. If by Liberalism, we mean the pursuit of freedom of opportunity for everyone to follow their conscience and excel in what they do, then I am in full favour and a proud Liberal. But that is not what being Liberal means now. Being Liberal now seems about being free to be who we want to be and to be free from the demands of others which may prevent that. The former is more conducive to the cohesion of Society and the latter conducive to its division.


I find it ironic that proponents of this Modern Liberalism only apply it to those who agree with them. As a proud conservative Christian – i.e. one who holds to the traditional teaching of the Church, in particular men and women being substantially different within humanity and fornication being inherently sinful and with all the consequences therefrom– I am judged to be illiberal and therefore not allowed the freedom to be who I am because it impinges on other, more worthy, freedoms of others within Society. I am judged to be homophobic, transphobic, and misogynist and must therefore be censured, censored lest I incense the ire of decent members of Society. This Modern Liberalism is intensely illiberal.


Let us, for example, look at the current question of surrogacy. You may know that the diver, Tom Daley and his (male) partner have had a baby by surrogacy. What we do not hear about is the person who carried that baby in her womb for nine months. We do not hear about her involvement despite the fact that this child bears her DNA. The woman has been whitewashed out of that relationship. The fact of the matter is that two homosexual males have an inherently sterile relationship UNLESS a woman is involved. What we will soon see is that women in poverty will be encouraged to be surrogate mothers for payment. What if the baby is not satisfactory, or disabled, or dies in the womb? I have already heard of a case of a single man who entered into a surrogacy agreement with a woman of little economical means who subsequently bore him a child with Down’s Syndrome. He refused to take the baby or to pay the sum due leaving a woman in penury with a completely dependent child. Is it any wonder that my mind is turning to the Handmaid’s Tale?


Liberalism needs to ground itself in basic facts: we simply cannot be what we want to be. Such a freedom is always going to encroach upon the same freedoms of others. The same desire that wants to see women being regarded as equals within the human genus is actually seeking to define women out of existence because it refuses the basic facts of the sacredness of being a man and the sacredness of being a woman and the intransigence between the two. As a man, I cannot know what it is like to be a woman, and Society doesn’t seem to get this. Society confuses being and doing grotesquely. Look at the retail industry: blue for boys, pink for girls; trucks for boys, dolls for girls; heavy shoes for jumping in mud for boys, pretty princess shoes for girls. Whether or not we have a visceral reaction to a boy playing with dolls, it’s clear that the boy is still a boy and that his preference for playing with dolls does not change what is written in every cell in his body.


Likewise, a stay-at-home father is often regarded as doing “women’s work.” He is not. He is doing his own work in looking after his children and playing a different role from his wife who is earning the money. The work does not rewrite DNA: DNA is a fact, not an opinion and Progressivism needs to ground itself in inalienable facts if it is to do justice to the human condition.


And this is where I am proudly conservative because I regard tradition highly and seek to preserve the corpus of human experience. It seems to me that the Revolutionary Spirit found in the present swathes of Social Justice Warriors seems out to deny the human beings of the past their own existence which has been completed. They are who they were and they were who they are. We have to share solidarity with all humanity throughout all ages because, despite the proud claims of the Progressives, humanity has not changed morally-speaking. Thinking that we have progressed will lead to the Progressives becoming ironically the cause of an enslaved society. It will be the Modern Liberals that will bring about the reality of the societies found in the Handmaid’s Tale, the Hunger Games, 1984, and even the Time Machine.


We can look, say, at the Carry On films which are probably being derided once more. They seem to have gone up and down in popularity since their time due to how politically correct their humour is found to be at the time. However, they are never allowed to be of their time. No, gawping at a woman’s chest is tacky and yet, the heterosexual male naturally finds the female figure attractive. The figure of Sid James lusting after Barbara Windsor is horrific in that Babs is being dehumanised, yet it is also tragic as Sid dehumanises himself as an animal on heat, and it is comedic in that this is how humanity is. That is something that has been expressed in all human culture from the beginnings of human culture. It has always been the source of comedy. Human experience finds much comedy in the figure of the man in the thrall of sexual desire because it is a common experience which conflicts with manners.


It is absolutely abhorrent for a man to force his attentions upon women, and rape is a disgusting way to treat a human being. Yet it is impolite and degrading to remark upon a woman’s body in a way that will make her feel uncomfortable and less-than-human. The comedy arises in this tension between the male animal seeking gratification of his desire and the homo sapiens seeking to rise above his animal instinct and treat a woman with the respect and dignity she deserves. And yet, comedy is the thin median between tragedy on the one side and horror on the other. Conservatism should seek to keep the boundaries by which this line is apparent: tolerance should allow someone forgiveness when they transgress this line and, having transgressed, render remorse, apology and transformation. Every human male should learn to feel disgust at the thought of a woman being raped and seek to check his natural instincts. Every woman should indeed call out any activity that she finds infringes her body autonomy. Both sexes must also recognise that mistakes happen, sometimes with terrible consequences. There needs to be the capacity for forgiveness but it must be recognised that this forgiveness may take a long time to complete and at a cost commensurate with the offence.


Conservatism ensures that we keep to the same standard as always even though some societies have gone against that. Conservatism keeps that ideal standard going above the changes and chances of this fleeting world and, for me, engages in a reflection of the Divine Nature. Conservatism recognises that there are moral absolutes and objective moral values. These values turn Hume’s “ought”s into concrete “is”s. In recognising both the immutability of these values and also the brokenness of human nature, we see Tolerant Conservatism as being a fully Christian view of politics. I don’t doubt that Christians can take other political stances: it is the Christian Royal Priesthood that will sanctify politics. However, the Christian does need to make room for the King of Kings as a king and thus recognise the limits to which human beings are truly free. The fact is that we are free to be the people whom God has created us to be, not whom we create ourselves to be.


The seeds of dystopia are always in our society and they always will be. We need to learn about all kinds of Fascism. Conservatism has its own Fascism as the Nationalist movements of the last century show us; Socialism has its own Fascism which fell largely at the end of the Century and yet still afflicts countries today; we need, therefore, to be on our guard against Liberal and Progressive Fascism which is beginning to build up in our youngsters disillusioned with any ideal that disallows themselves to define themselves as they desire. Once the generation of old-style conservatives has lost control, the Social Justice Warriors will succeed them. They have a chance to see how their politics could become intolerant and alter their stances accordingly. I pray that they will take this chance.

Sunday, February 03, 2019

The evil that God does

Sermon for the fourth Sunday after Epiphany (Mattins)


Do you know the difference between good and evil?


We like to think so, don’t we? We know the Ten Commandments and that idolatry is evil and adultery is evil and stealing is evil, et c. However, we also know that the Lord Himself has a habit of showing us up. If we are angry with someone without good cause then we are murdering them in our hearts. If a man lusts after a woman then he is committing adultery with her in his heart. It’s clear that good and evil aren’t as clear cut as we think they are, and that’s our problem.


Can God do evil? It would appear that the Prophet Amos thinks He can!

Shall a trumpet be blown in the city, and the people not be afraid? shall there be evil in a city, and the Lord hath not done it?

[PAUSE]


It’s verses like that that often give people a reason to think that God is a monster but it’s worth trying to understand what Amos is saying here. What is this evil in the city? Other translations have the word “disaster” instead of “evil”. We human beings tend to think of disasters as being a natural evil. Indeed, people like Stephen Fry have used natural disasters to show why they believe that, if God exists, then He is a nasty piece of work.


Perhaps you have seen that piece of film of the baby iguana being chased by snakes. You watch as it scrabbles over rocks as snake upon snake upon snake lashes out hoping to grab the little lizard. How you breathe a sigh of relief when it escapes their clutches! But why did you take the iguana’s side?


Look at it the other way. Think of the starving snakes desperate for some food. They need to eat to stay alive. Here is an opportunity of food and they all seek to grab it. And they fail. Those snakes have to face another day with the pain of hunger.


So which is good and which is evil?


The poor snake has been tarred with being evil because it is dangerous to human beings and because the Devil disguised himself as one.


Perhaps God is evil for making animals behave like this in the first place. If animals didn’t eat each other, everything would be okay.


And here we face a bit of a problem. God loves us and the Cross of Christ proves that. His creation is Good even if we find it hard to stomach sometimes. But that’s the problem – we’re the ones calling it evil, not God. The lightning is terrifying, but it’s not evil. The lion and the gazelle are both glorious examples of God working through evolution and we perceive their beauty. We may not understand wasps, slugs, spider, scorpions, snakes or tapeworms, but a careful study of them shows how perfectly designed for their environment they are.


God’s creation is good. Water is our life, but we can drown in it. Fire keeps us warm, but it can burn us. Things that keep us alive and happy can hurt and kill us. God’s good creation can be used to harm us.


When a city is flooded, God is responsible only in the sense that He makes water do what water does. Whose responsibility is it for building the city where it can be flooded? If a small child dies of starvation in Somalia, God is responsible only in the sense that He created us to need food. Whose responsibility is it that this child has to live in poverty in Somalia in the first place? There will be hotter summers and colder winters under Global Warming. More people will find it difficult to live. God is responsible only for the way that weather follows the laws of physics. Whose responsibility is it that Global Warming started at the same time as the Industrial Revolution?


[PAUSE]


Human beings have to take some responsibility for the disaster that befalls them, and this is precisely what the Prophet Amos is telling us. Rejecting God is bad for our health. Living in a way that dishonours God has consequences for us – in our language it looks like punishment for our sins but this punishment comes simply from the consequences of our actions.


Our Lord Himself tells us that the people killed by a falling tower are not receiving a result of their personal sins. However, the law of gravity says that towers fall and the way that the tower was built clearly had a weakness. The builders have to take responsibility of their failings.


The evil in human society is a consequence of the Evil that infects human nature. Often we are unconscious of the wrong that we do. If we buy cheap clothes then we could be funding modern slavery. If we don’t dispose of plastic safely then we could be contributing to the destruction of ocean life, and thus all life on this planet.


[PAUSE]


This all sounds very depressing and human beings do have a lot of responsibility to take for the state of the planet. However, the point is that we have a Saviour who promises that all things will be made new – new heavens and a new earth – and that we ourselves will be made new. That doesn’t mean that we should forget about things as they are now. We are still affected by the consequences of the human race even if we are not personally directly responsible. We need to show our love for neighbour by being active, reducing poverty, ending oppression, and, above all, showing the love of God in our lives trusting that all things are possible with God.


Just as the sea is made turbulent by waves, so is our human life made turbulent by all our sins. If we live according to the will of God then we bring with us the One Who calms the storm just by being in the same boat as us. By returning to God and obedience to Him, we become instruments of His Peace and do our Fallen World some good.


In the face of the disasters in life, St Paul has these words for all who turn to God:

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.



Monday, January 28, 2019

Intellectual love

As usual, I find much to think on in the comments section of “Thinking Anglicans”. I know I shouldn’t for the sake of my blood-pressure and for my keeping of the Lord’s commandments, but I had occasion to read this particular comment aimed at the Evangelicals and other traditionally minded folk in the CofE.

I suppose that I am a fairly traditional, ‘orthodox’ believer in many ways, but I have never felt that intellectual assent to any doctrine or creed is essential to being a Christian. For me, and I suspect for you, and probably the majority of Christians world-wide and millennia-wide, it’s about being part of a Body. Maybe if I was more tied into professional ministry as was the case pre-retirement, I’d be more worked up about the failures and dogmatism of the institutional Church. But many of the concerns aired on this website leave me cold. God is all (but don’t ask what that means); I can’t envisage living without the sacraments (especially the eucharist); and a regular discipline of prayer is important. The struggle for justice is vital. But that is all about being part of the Body. Obsession about doctrines or sexuality, or box-ticking about numbers in church, is all about the institution and I’m not interested.

It does raise an interesting question: does being a Christian require an intellectual assent?


We do have to be careful. Given that there are human beings who lack the capacity for intellectual thought through no fault of their own, we cannot indeed proclaim that they are not Christian and cannot be saved by Christ. For a churchman to pronounce on the state of anyone’s soul without Divine permission is a claim that the Church has the keys to Hell which it manifestly does not. As cases of the Gnostics have proved to Orthodox Christians, we do not get to Heaven by special knowledge save only in getting to know the Divine Master and thereby learning to trust Him and learning to be faithful to Him. The Commentator I quoted above is concerned with the way that people with same-sex attraction are not being allowed to “love”. Of course, love is the means by which we forge relationships. The two greatest commandments, Our Lord tells us, are about love.

If this particular chap is concerned with love, let us look at those commandments very closely.

Deuteronomy vi.5: (Hebrew) And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.


.ךָדֶאֹמְ-לכָבְוּ , ךָשְׁפְנַ-לכָבְוּ ךָבְבָלְ-לכָבְּ , ךָיהֶלֹאֱ הוָהיְ תאֵ ,תָּבְהַאָוְ


(Septuagint) And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy mind, and with all thy soul, and all thy strength.


καὶ ἀγαπήσεις Κύριον τὸν Θεόν σου ἐξ ὅλης τῆς καρδίας σου καὶ ἐξ ὅλης τῆς ψυχῆς σου καὶ ἐξ ὅλης τῆς δυνάμεώς σου.


Matthew xxii.37: Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.


ὁ δὲ ἔφη αὐτῷ · Ἀγαπήσεις κύριον τὸν θεόν σου ἐν ὅλῃ τῇ καρδίᾳ σου καὶ ἐν ὅλῃ τῇ ψυχῇ σου καὶ ἐν ὅλῃ τῇ διανοίᾳ σου ·


Luke x.27: And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.


ὁ δὲ ἀποκριθεὶς εἶπεν · Ἀγαπήσεις κύριον τὸν θεόν σου ἐξ ὅλης τῆς καρδίας σου καὶ ἐν ὅλῃ τῇ ψυχῇ ⸃ σου καὶ ἐν ὅλῃ τῇ ἰσχύϊ ⸃ σου καὶ ἐν ὅλῃ τῇ διανοίᾳ ⸃ σου, καὶ τὸν πλησίον σου ὡς σεαυτόν.

It’s interesting that there seems to be a bit of an inconsistency between what God tells Moses in the Deuteronomy and what Our Lord tells us in the Gospels. We need to have a careful little examinations and ask the question, “with which of our faculties are we to love God?”


Of course, the spirit of the commandment is that we love God in every aspect of ourselves with every fibre of our being but, given that some are trying to love God with “aspects “ of themselves which are not actually aspects of the self, we do need to look at the text carefully.


The Hebrew version of Deuteronomy tells you to love God:


ךָבְבָלְ-לכָבְּ – with all your hearts


ךָשְׁפְנַ-לכָבְוּ – and with all your souls


ךָדֶאֹמְ-לכָבְוּ – and with all your strength.


The Septuagint version tells you to love the Lord your God:


ἐξ ὅλης τῆς καρδίας σου – with all your hearts


καὶ ἐξ ὅλης τῆς ψυχῆς σου – and with all your soul


καὶ ἐξ ὅλης τῆς δυνάμεώς σου. – and with all your strength.


Clearly kardia is being used to translate leb, psyche nephesh and dynamis me’od here. Yet, we notice from the Gospels, we have ischys translating me’od and have the addition of dianoia.

Of course, Greek and Hebrew have different philosophies of identity. A Greek has a soul, but a Hebrew is a soul. The Hebrew thinks and feels with the heart, the Greek separates the affective capacities of the heart from the reasoning. Even within the Greek, we have differences between the ischys - i.e. power – and the dynamis - i.e. capability – both apparently translating me’od.


This might seem confusing at first, but we do remember that, in Deuteronomy, God the Father is speaking to His chosen people Israel almost exclusively. They have a Hebrew understanding of identity and therefore clarifications are not necessary. However, given the mission of Our Lord goes now beyond Israel, we see Him applying more cosmopolitan terms in the Lingua Franca of Greek.which does suggest that Our Lord probably did teach in Greek and therefore that the Greek Gospels do indeed preserve His actual words rather than being a translation from Aramaic. This leads us to another question.


What does this say about Our Lord’s understanding of our identity as human beings?


Our psyche is neither our vitality, nor our rational spirit but the seat of the senses, our kardia the seat of our passions, our dianoia the seat of our reason, our ischys the force we have to enact our capabilities all directed by our will. St Paul requires us to glorify God in our bodies and in our spirits which are God’s. Clearly, if we do not have the power of intellect, then we cannot love God in our intellect, thus those who are mentally handicapped are not barred from the love of God


And now, we can return to the question posed: Does being a Christian require an intellectual assent?

If we are to love God then the answer is yes because we need to love God as He is and this is precisely the path that Holy Scripture, Tradition and Reason all together set us on. They present us with the truth be it historical, metaphorical, moral and/or analogical. The Creeds tell us the beginning of what we know of God, and then the rest is taken up with seeking to know God as a rational, lovable being not an abstract object. The moral code of the Bible is there to help us to discern what is of God from that which is not and thereby gives us a way of transformation. No-one comes to God with perfect belief in Him; our task is to come to know Him and allow that process of transformation and growth in Him to happen. We may not have all the intellectual faculties as the great Doctors of the Church, but if we possess the intellectual ability to learn to read sacred doctrine, then we should exercise that capacity so that by it we may love God all the more. Right at the beginning, and then throughout Psalm cxix, we read:

Blessed are those that are undefiled in the way : and walk in the law of the Lord.
Blessed are they that keep his testimonies : and seek him with their whole heart.
For they who do no wickedness : walk in his ways.
Thou hast charged : that we shall diligently keep thy commandments.

If we love God, then we keep His commandments and we can only know what His commandments are by using what He has revealed to us. To see Doctrine as something separate from living and therefore us unnecessary demonstrates either that one is lacking in an intellectual capacity, or not loving God as fully as possible. As I say, our Christian life is that of transformation and we will never get it right immediately but our efforts will be rewarded in the fulness of God’s love to which we tend. What we must not do is reject the teaching given to the Church on what is right and wrong on the grounds that it does not fit with our lifestyle. Our lifestyle is meant to be bent to fit the path on which God guides us, not the other way round.



Sunday, January 27, 2019

HiFi God

Sermon for the third Sunday after Epiphany (Mattins)


Why is Our Lord’s parable called “The Prodigal Son”? Why not “The Abandoned Father”, “the Grudging Brother” or “The Broken Home”?


The way the Lord tells the parable is from the point of view of the son and with obvious intent. Think of what you know about the parable and what you hear in it.


However, we still have to realise that there is a father left at home waiting. We know that he is the one left behind and yet all we see of him is running out to embrace his son and call a great feast. What do we really know of the father’s story?


Perhaps we’ve already been give the father’s side of this parable.


[PAUSE]


The prophet Hosea is one who shares much with God. Indeed, God has made sure that his life reflects His own relationship with humanity. If you remember, God has told Hosea to marry Gomer. She is a woman whom God knows will be unfaithful to Hosea, and it is precisely for this reason that He gives the prophet this command. Hosea is faithful to God and obeys. The inevitable happens and Hosea faces the breakup of his household as his wife runs off with another man.


Has God been unfair to Hosea?


[PAUSE]


Many might think of God’s commands as being desperately unfair to the individuals involved. Look at what he commands poor old Ezekiel, lying on one side and making a fire out of… well, what we would now flush away! However, what we see are prophets who are faithful to God and obey His strange commands and so they gain a greater relationship with God Himself.


God speaks to Hosea of Israel’s infidelity. How the Hebrew people whom God had saved from Egypt are falling away and worshipping Baal. God tells Hosea of His fury and that He is not unaffected by Israel’s rejection. And yet, God’s love is very clear.

How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? how shall I deliver thee, Israel? how shall I make thee as Admah? how shall I set thee as Zeboim? mine heart is turned within me, my repentings are kindled together. I will not execute the fierceness of mine anger, I will not return to destroy Ephraim: for I am God, and not man; the Holy One in the midst of thee: and I will not enter into the city.

He simply cannot give Israel over to destruction. And Hosea knows what that feels because he has gone through the same thing. God’s command to Hosea means that he and God share a profound relationship. Hosea understands how God feels about Israel abandoning Him because he experiences it himself in a way that is deeper than words can ever be.


We don’t really understand how God the Father’s emotions work: He is God and not man. This is why God needs to use His commands to communicate with us, even if they hurt. Of course, in Our Lord Jesus, God is made man in order to provide us with a deeper relationship with God in a way we understand better. Jesus tells us the parable of the Prodigal Son so we can see our own side of things. But Jesus is also drawing us back to understand what Hosea himself knows of infidelity.


What we see is that God loves us deeply and hates all sin. We are unfaithful and, because of our infidelity, we fall into sin and our humanity is fractured and broken. The only way it can be repaired is by returning to a faithful relationship with God.


St Paul reminds us that we are justified by faith and, if we see our relationship with God in the same way as Hosea and Gomer, we understand that our faith is not a passive thing that we possess, but something that we must use. We live by faith by doing faithful things. Our living by faith comes by being obedient to God: we live in relationship with Him as part of His Church.


Our faith is bound up with our obedience to God, and our obedience to God – even in the most painful things – deepens our relationship with Him and we learn to understand what He is like and how He loves us. We understand how our sinfulness tears us away from Him and how it gives Him a reason to abandon us. Yet He does not and keeps calling us back, even as Hosea calls Gomer back. And when we return, then we see the end of the story of the prodigal son. We see God run out to meet us when we reject sin.


God wants us all to be saved from Evil. If we choose Evil, then we abandon Him. If we try to rename Evil as our Good, then we are in danger of never being able to return to Him. The way forward is clear and we can hear God Himself tell us: seek ye FIRST the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

There's no discouragement...

Sermon for the second Sunday after Epiphany (Mattins)
Do you get the impression that no-one is listening to you?

Getting yourself heard these days is getting harder and harder. There is a lot of noise in our society. If you have a message to get across, how do you do it?

There are advertising boards everywhere. There are so many television channels, now, all with nothing worth watching most of the time. There are voices coming from your phone, from social media. There are so many newspapers. And each of them has hundreds of voices telling you to listen to them and their mission to improve the world. How can you make yourself heard above the din?

[PAUSE]

Isaiah is one of those lucky folk to be given a vision of the Heavenly court. He sees someone called “The Servant” and it doesn’t take us long to hear that this servant of God is to be despised and rejected of men. This is Our Lord seen hundreds of years before His Incarnation, And what does He say?
“ I have laboured in vain, I have spent my strength for nought, and in vain.”
It sounds very much like discouragement. If Our Lord suffers from discouragement then it stands to reason that we will too. Indeed, God promises that Isaiah’s message will not bring people back to God but rather harden their hearts against Him.

And that’s something we know from experience. Do you fancy going out into the street now and shouting “Glory to God in the Highest”? What will be the reaction? Will it be one of encouragement? The Church’s message of the Gospel is being distorted constantly through the noise of other messages. Falsehoods and fake news are obscuring the Word of God. Profanity and blasphemy are being presented alongside ikons of God’s love for the world. So why bother?

If even Our Lord faces frustration and discouragement, why bother?

[PAUSE]

Again, Isaiah is privileged to hear a conversation between two persons of the Holy Trinity. For the Father replies to His Son.
It is a light thing that thou shouldest be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth…In an acceptable time have I heard thee, and in a day of salvation have I helped thee: and I will preserve thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, to establish the earth, to cause to inherit the desolate heritages; That thou mayest say to the prisoners, Go forth; to them that are in darkness, Shew yourselves. They shall feed in the ways, and their pastures shall be in all high places.
The Son is obedient to the Father and thus is His servant. He does what He has been told. The same is true for us, for if Our King Jesus is a servant, then so must we be if we accept Him as our king. Our business is to serve Him for the Glory of God. Our reason for being, our purpose, is solely for the good pleasure of God.

One of the messages that you will hear from the World around you is that results matter. Yet, that is not true. When we hear Our Lord tell us the parable of the talents, we realise it’s not the amount that we are given that matters, nor the amount that we make from what we are given: it’s that we do something with what we’re given.

When we listen to the Father, we hear Him say to the Son that it won’t just be the preserved of Israel that hear Him, but the Gentiles too, and that as a result, the suffering of people under the yoke of sin is destroyed – all because the Son is perfectly obedient to His Father.

The same is true for us too. We are not called to “succeed” whatever that might mean. We are called to be obedient to God, to keep faith with Him, to love Him and to love others. We are not to put any measure of success on what we do. If our voice is drowned out by the internet, at least it is still there for someone to stumble across. We may think that the Gospel we preach is lost in the noise, but it is not. If we are faithful to God, then our sound – His sound – will go out into all lands and His Word unto the ends of the World.

Faced with the tide of the world against Orthodox Christianity, it is only natural that we feel overwhelmed, frustrated and discouraged. Yet, St James reminds us “that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” We have to stick with it as an expression of our love for God and for no other purpose. The internet makes the whole world so small and we are said that we are part of a global community. If no prophet is accepted in his own country, then we are bound not to be heard very well in this global community. This is the fact

[PAUSE]

If this is the case, then this is the perfect reason to carry on. The world will not reward us for preaching the Gospel. If we expect a reward, then we are going to be disappointed. Nor should we expect a reward from God for preaching His Gospel. We already have more than any reward could be worth. We already have His love and His promise and no other reward comes near to that.

Let the world deride or pity us: in Christ we have all the encouragement we need to preach His truly Good News of His love.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Obstacles to the Kingdom

Again, I break my rule of trying not to be interested in what the CofE is up to. It’s because the problems that the CofE are having are pervasive through Society and I live in Society albeit reluctantly. The question of Inclusivity has caused problems in the CofE Diocese of Oxford in which a hundred clergy have expressed their concern over the bishops’ ad clerum on same-sex relations. The tension that is building between the Evangelicals and the Liberals is becoming more and more visible.

Really the tension in the CofE lies between dogmatic theology and pastoral theology – it’s almost a head-heart problem. In many ways, I sympathise and do recognise that people are trying to preach the Gospel in a practical manner. This isn’t easy when the Gospel is being interpreted in the exclusive light of modernity rather than according to the whole Church – the true definition of what it means to be Catholic.

The problem is very simple: how is the Church to respond to those who suffer from Same-Sex attraction?

The Church’s doctrine from Tradition is very clear. Sexual activity is only morally acceptable within the bounds of Christian marriage and Christian marriage is exclusively between a man and a woman. Therefore, sexual activity between people of the same sex is sinful.

The logic is sound and utterly indifferent to the loneliness of those afflicted in this way. Perhaps that’s the problem – the doctrine is so cold that it seems to lack any warmth of humanity about it. In this short doctrine, the sufferer from SSA appears to be condemned to a life without intimacy, without companionship and without tenderness.

We do have to cut through some of the emotive language here. What has really been forbidden? The answer is sexual activity. That’s the only thing off the table here. I’ve said it before that the monastery is a place where a community of people of the same sex can be convened in love, that’s true love – agape – and companionship – that’s philia. Eros is not allowed because it is not holy in such a set up. The Biblical record is very clear on that and academics such as Dr Robert Gagnon have written so much in order to clarify something that is very clear. The disease does not come from the human desire for love, affection, affinity and closeness, but from the notion that love must be able to be expressed physically. It’s a form of materialistic nihilism and it can be found in the corruption of Society.

This is why the Church has to be so careful when dealing with those who do suffer from SSA. There is an underlying assumption that the Catholic Church hates gay people. Given the way that many Christians seem to act when faced with SSA issues, it is not surprising when gay people feel vilified after having Leviticus xviii.22 is rammed down their throats. However, it is also problematic when that sensation of vilification comes from the brokenness of human nature.

Society is bent on teaching everyone that gay sex is permissible. Thus the SSA-afflicted will naturally feel spurned when the Church tells them that it isn’t. The feel rejected because Society tells them that they have been rejected. Society tells them that their homosexuality is a defining part of them and that to be denied the intimate caresses of someone of the same sex is a rejection of them as human beings.

But we are not defined by our sexuality.

Why not?

We know that in Heaven there is no marriage. Our Lord refutes the Sadducees on the relationship between marriage and the Resurrection in Matthew xxii.30-32:
For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage , but are as the angels of God in heaven. But as touching the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.
Thus the whole need for sexuality is done away in the Resurrection. Fornication – extramarital activity – is a sin and there is no sin at the Resurrection when we are perfected in Christ. If there is no marriage, then there is no sexuality. If we are saved in Christ, then we must be prepared to lose our sexuality now for this loss will be part of our perfection. Marriage is necessary now because of the fact that we die, and we die because human nature is infected with sin. Thus, our desire for sex is something that will pass away for everyone.

The temptation is to cling on to it. To cling on to sin in the face of God is practically suicidal because where God is, sin cannot be. Thus, as soap clings onto dirt and is borne away with it in the cleansing current of water, thus those who cling onto sin threaten their destiny to dwell eternally in the presence of God.

The trouble with having a fractured nature is that we get used to the cracks and come to see them as part of us. The worry is that if these cracks are removed we will somehow cease really to be ourselves. Each one of us is afflicted in the same way and there will be aspects of who we think we are that will vanish when we are perfected. The act of perfection will be painful: this is the Purgatory that I believe in and why I pray for the Dead so that I can be in solidarity with all of fractured humanity in agony as its bones are broken and reset so it can live again.

It’s not the Church that’s the problem, it’s the infected society in which we live that is driving those with SSA into believing that they have a right to be physically with someone of the same sex and saturating every experience of life with sexual provocation. No wonder people with SSA think that they are well and healthy – they are being told that by a humanity that is sick at heart!

Yet, we Christians, too, live in the same Society and are infected in much the same way. Our duty then, is to participate actively in our purification and in the purification of humanity. It is in the name of the Lord Jesus that we are washed and so we must seek Him out actively for that ongoing purification.

In an article by the Rev Marcus Green we see him take to task these Oxford Evangelicals when they say, “advocacy of same-sex sexual intimacy is either an expression of the love of God or it creates an obstacle to people entering the kingdom of God. It cannot be both.” I can certainly see his point. When we accept God as king over our lives – and thus become part of His kingdom – then we do so as broken, fallible and imperfect beings yearning for our perfection in God. Our entry into this kingdom is not prevented by being in an intimate homosexual relationship. If God offers His grace then we may receive it as we are. Given, however, that once we accept the kingdom of God we have to be active in our faith and accept His purification as it is, we will have to renounce our worldliness and the demands of Society in order for the grace that we receive to transform our lives. It is the love of God that prevents Him from forcing His purification upon us. He awaits our consent. The task we face in living is to bend our will to His and render our consent as full as Our Lady’s “yes” to the Incarnation.

In his letter to the people in Corinth, we see St Paul’s injunction that we cannot continue in the Kingdom of God if we embrace sin:
Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed , but ye are sanctified , but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God. (I Cor vi.9-11)
Notice that it applies to other sins, not just sins of intimacy. Exactly the same argument applies to adulterers and that includes not only those who do the deed, but also the divorced and remarried AND those who look at a woman with lust in their heart. Those are Christ’s words.

While we may never be free from these sins and weaknesses in our lives, we must at least be praying for our purification from them. We need to recognise that we cannot hope to find holiness if we’re habitually drunk, nor forcing people to work for a pittance. Homosexual intimacy is equivalent to these. Thus, if we condemn those who do enjoy homosexual sex and, in ignorance, permit deprived children sewing trainers together for a fraction of a grain of rice, then we condemn ourselves. This is what Christ means when he says that we can cast the first stone only if we are without sin.

Nonetheless, Church doctrine still stands. St Paul’s words are part of that doctrine. Homosexual intimacy is not ever to be acceptable to the Church and thus it stands as a challenge to Society’s corruption of its members. Doctrine also tells us that the Church possesses only the keys to Heaven. While the Church has to reject Society’s decision that marriage can happen between homosexual couples, it is by no means against the individuals themselves, but rather seeks their eternal Good, their eternal joy, their complete, unmitigated perfection as Church members in the face of God Himself.

The Church seeks to wrench people out of the curse of being defined by their sexuality so that they can see themselves as more than that. And I pray that it will always do so.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Liberalism and Evangelism: a Traddie responds


I came across this article in the Church Times by Dr Miranda Threlfall-Holmes in which she claims that it is time for Liberals to “reclaim” evangelism from the Evangelical wing of the CofE. Given that the Evangelical wing of the CofE is the wing most likely to break off and ally itself to the Jerusalem Declaration Churches such as GAFCON and AMiE, it is quite apparent that the Liberals need to make sure that empty pews are filled by more palatable and inclusive Christians.

First of all, why do I bother commenting on this? Surely, it’s none of my business, being a member of the ACC having renounced my affiliation to the Established Church? Secondly, I’m a Catholic, neither an Evangelical (in the Low Church sense of the term) nor a Liberal (in the “progressive modernist” sense of the term). I don’t have a horse in the race, do I?

As I have said before, the fact of being established does mean that the CofE is trying to speak on behalf of all Christians, which it most assuredly does not. It raises the question as to whether it is, in fact, speaking for and Christians at all, given that it seeks to employ the atheist and the heterodox in positions of influence whilst leaving aside those who believe wholeheartedly in the three creeds and that God-given library which we know and love as Holy Scripture. I also have a profound doubt in the claims of the Liberal/Progressive wing within the CofE to be properly Christian.

Secondly, I am worried by the word that Dr T-H uses in her essay. When she says that she wants “want to reclaim evangelism for liberals” what does she mean by the word “reclaim”? Does she want to “want to reclaim evangelism for liberals from Evangelicals” i.e. does she regard the Evangelical voice to be contrary to the Gospel and need to silence it? Or is she being inclusive and just wanting Liberals to start evangelising better alongside Evangelicals? The problem here is quite clear in that Evangelicals, and Traddie Catholics like me, believe in the immutability of the nature of Sin and that Sin is not the matter of opinion of the Church but rather the clear direction of God as something He wants to save us from.

What I do notice is in Dr T-H’s article is that she does seem to build straw man and even almost admits it when she refers to the caricature of “Christianity as a religion of ‘Thou shalt not’, smiting, and the fear of hell.” It’s clear that she is trying to evoke the image black-clad bible-bashing Protestant flinging Hell and Damnation about like goodness knows what into the mind of the reader. Yet, she so readily talks about Salvation and this begs the question, “salvation from what?” If it isn’t salvation from Sin and Hell, then what are we to be saved from? If Christ Himself speaks of Hell, then should we not listen? Does God send people to Hell? No! They send themselves there. Surely, if Dr Threlfall-Holmes can understand that Traddies have left the Church because they will neither accept her as a priest nor her liberal preaching, then she will understand just how someone ends up in Hell by rejecting God and His salvation.

The salvation that Dr T-H seems to be alluding to is very strange and it seems to me to be typical of the notion of Salvation in Liberal Theology. She says that she sees Liberal Theology as that “which does not see our salvation as relying on our getting Christianity right; and from a theology of creation which believes in “original blessing” rather than original sin.” It’s interesting that neither do the Evangelical nor the Traddie Catholics see our salvation as “getting Christianity right”: that would be Pelagianism. Where the Evangelical and I might part company is over the idea of Original Sin: I tend to understand that in the more Orthodox notion of a fracture of our human nature as a result of our misuse of free-will – a fracture which is infected with evil and sin. However, neither the Evangelical nor I see our salvation as something we get right. Our salvation comes about by faith in Our Lord Jesus Christ and (I believe) co-operating with His grace by wilfully displaying that faith in works of Charity alongside Him. In order to be saved, (and salvation, I believe, is a process, not a one-off event) I need to know Our Lord Jesus Christ – I need to make sure that it is the real Jesus Christ and not an idol of my own making. The fact that Our Lord is an historical figure as opposed to a mythical figure means that there are objective things we can say about Him, and the fullest historical evidence for what we can say about Him comes from the Gospels. We may not know His every opinion, but we can be sure that if He has an opinion on our salvation, then it is not just opinion, it is objective fact. Why? If the Christian believes John iii.16-17, then it is clear that Our Lord knows what He is saving us from and thus what He teaches is not a matter of opinion, but a matter of fact. Orthodoxy is therefore of salvation importance to the Christian.

And talking of Orthodoxy, what does “getting Christianity right” mean? Surely that’s orthodoxy. But I thought Liberalism was supposed to be about believing and trusting in God – isn’t that doing something right? Or are we saved without any input? Are we saved against our will? Dr T-H claims “The heart of liberal Christianity, for me, is, fundamentally, very orthodox: the belief that God’s love is unconditional, and is enough.” So there is some contradiction. Are we to get Christianity right by loving God with all our being and our neighbour as ourselves? Or are we saved regardless? Is Dr T-H a follower of “Origien’s” apokatastasis whereby all are eventually saved, even Hitler, Jimmy Savile and the Devil? No Hell means no Justice, it also means that love coerces our salvation and, to my mind, that goes against love.

She cites Bishop Michael Curry as being the prime example of Liberal/Progressive Evangelisation, and yet, if we do the biblical thing and test the spirits. Bishop Curry speaks to the emotions and passions rather than to the soul. His sermon has been shown to be rather content free and equivocating on the meaning of Love. I suspect that a translation of that sermon in Greek would show up the jarring discrepancies that Bishop Curry makes when he confuses agape,philia and eros in the same sermon. If this is the archetypical Liberal Evangelism, then it is a sower of confusion making the self the arbiter of what right and wrong are in this milieu of moral relativism. If this is the gospel that people want preached, then it isn’t actually going to transform them, rather, it will entrench them further in their own self-caricature. There is no challenge in this Liberal Gospel.

I notice that, like most Liberals, what is actually at the heart of Dr T-H’s gospel is not Love but Power expressed through the Marxist language of Rights and Privilege. She speaks of handing power over to the historically marginalised forgetting that Christianity is not about power, but rather Love. Yes, Christ’s Kingship means that Christians have a political dimension to their expression of the faith, but the kingdom of God will be built upon Christ and Faith in Him. It is not true that every historically marginalised body is Christian. The Jews have suffered much in the way of historical marginalisation, but Christians cannot accept their “power and agency” over the Church. Christianity is centred on the teaching of Christ and not on politically correct apologies to the socially marginalised, especially when that marginalisation has been self-inflicted through the rejection of the teaching of Christ. Yes, that teaching is centred on love, but on the transformation in that love by which we die to sin and live to Christ. If we continue to sin unrepentantly, then we cannot be living in Christ because to do so necessarily rejects that transformation which is offered not imposed according to the character of love expounded in I Corinthians xiii.

Again, Dr T-H resorts to the implied straw-man of the Evangelical selling a “pre-packaged solution” whilst the Liberal knows that she hasn’t “got there”. This is rather offensive in a way. The Incarnation is precisely the “pre-packaged solution” to the human calamity and to the transformation of human life. It requires unpacking certainly, but the Catholic Church has the framework in which that unpacking takes place. We don’t stifle questions but rather seek solutions in the person of Christ as has been revealed to us by God Himself in Scripture, Tradition and Reason. It is Experience which frames the question and Scripture, Tradition and Reason which work together to seek the solution. Experience is not a source of Authority, it is the means whereby we interact with the Revelation of the Incarnate Christ. Perfect knowledge is not attainable in the life, but Orthodoxy allows us to converge to it rather than diverge from it.

Finally, Dr Threlfall-Holmes does as all Liberals do and refutes herself beautifully. “Ask questions, give away power, and risk trusting God rather than your programme for the results.” Indeed, I trust God rather than the Liberal programme for the results. Likewise, Dr T-H should also seek not to trust in her own liberalism but rather seek the real God in Christ. She can only do so if she rejects her relativism, especially her trust in “secular experience” and Liberation-Theology. We notice again, the Liberal search for Christ away from the Church – the search for the Groom away from the Bride. To bring communities up in secular philosophies will never bring them to Christ but rather to a distorted image worked out through secular morality and values.

It’s a shame that a clearly intelligent woman is so confused about the rot that Liberalism is causing her church. As an Orthodox Christian, I say that she is wrong but, out of love and respect, I must allow her to be wrong and wait for her, like the Prodigal Son, to return to the Church where the Father will gloriously and outrageously receive her in joy. However, for this to happen, she, like me and every other sinner must recognise sin and evil for what they are and repent. She can’t do this if she, like all followers of the Liberal Agenda, reasons sin out of existence through equivocating on the Word of God. Like most other Liberals, she seems to find fault with the conviction that Conservative Christians have for their faith. I am convinced that there is a God and I have good reasons for why I am an Anglican Catholic in my approach to Christ. If that offends her and that she rejects my arguments and those of other Conservative Christians on the grounds that conviction is a sin, then how can she be convinced that she is right to do so? If nothing is objective and we can be certain of nothing, then being convinced of something leaves us no worse off and all convictions are equal in this regard. She has no grounds on which to call Conservative Christians to account, nor any reason to evangelise to the unchurched in the first place.

I hope that the evangelising of the Evangelicals as well as the evangelising of the Traditional Catholics continue to expose the false evangelism of the Liberal and Progressive movement until the latter truly finds Christianity and thus ceases to endanger the salvation of souls.