The Life of God in the Soul of Man

lifeofgodsoulofman

Some quotes to entice you.

Correct orthodox or religious opinion is not true religion: 

“…I must regret that among so many pretenders to it, so few understand what it means ;  some placing it in the Understanding, in Orthodox Notions and Opinions, and all the account they can give of their Religion, is that they are of this or the other persuasion, and have join’d themselves to one of those many Sects whereunto Christendom is most unhappily divided .”

Works are not true religion:

“Others place it in the outward man, in a constant course of external duties, and a model of performances, if they live peaceably with their Neighbours, keep a temperate diet, observe the returns of Worship, frequenting the Church, or their Closet, and sometimes extend their hands to the relief of the Poor, they think they have sufficiently acquitted themselves.”

Emotional responses are not true religion:

“Others again put all Religion in the affections, in rapturous heats, and ecstatic devotion, and all they aim at, is to pray with passion, and think of Heaven with pleasure, and to be affected with those kind, and melting expressions wherewith they court their Saviour, till they persuade themselves that they are mightily in love with him, and from thence assume a great confidence of their salvation, which they esteem the chief of Christian Graces.”

True religion is:

“…Religion is quite another thing, and they who are acquainted with it, will entertain far different thoughts, and disdain all those shadows and false imitations of it.  They know by experience that true Religion is an Union of the Soul with God, a real participation of the Divine Nature, the very Image of God drawn upon the Soul, or in the Apostle’s phrase, it is Christ formed within us.  Briefly, I know not how the nature of Religion can be more fully expressed than by calling it a Divine Life ;  and under these terms I shall discourse of it, showing first how it is called a Life, and then how it is termed Divine.”

True religion is based in a relationship:

AGAIN, Religion may be designed by the name of Life, because it is an inward, free, and self-moving principle, and those who have made progress in it, are not acted only by external Motives, driven merely by threatenings, nor bribed by promises, nor constrain’d by Laws ;  but are powerfully inclined to that which is good, and delight in the performance of it :  The love which a Pious man carries to God, and goodness, is not so much by virtue of a Command enjoining him so to do, as by a new Nature instructing and prompting him to it ;  nor doth he pay his devotions, as an unavoidable tribute only to appease the Divine Justice, or quiet his clamorous Conscience ;  but those Religious exercises are the proper emanations of the divine life, the natural employments of the new-born Soul.

He prays and gives thanks, and repents, not only because these things are commanded, but rather because he is sensible of his wants, and of the Divine goodness, and of the folly and misery of a sinful life ;  his charity is not forced, nor his alms extorted from him, his love makes him willing to give ;  and though there were no outward obligation, his heart would devise liberal things.  Injustice or intemperance, and all other vices, are as contrary to his temper, and constitution, as the basest actions are to the most generous spirit, and impudence and scurrility to those who are naturally modest :  so that I may well say with St. JohnWhosoever is born of God doth not commit sin :  for his seed remaineth in him, and he cannot sin because he is born of God. Though holy and religious persons do much eye the Law of God, and have a great regard unto it, yet is it not so much the sanction of the Law, as its reasonableness, and purity and goodness which doth prevail with them ;  they account it excellent and desirable in its self, and that in keeping of it there is great reward :  and that Divine Love wherewith they are acted, makes them become a Law unto themselves.”

To read the work it can be found online at: https://www.anglican.net/works/henry-scougal-the-life-of-god-in-the-soul-of-man-1677/

Evensong

You have to admit Evensong is a beautiful form of prayer! Evening Prayer or vespers is the daily evening service of Bible readings and prayers prescribed in the Book of Common Prayer. I’ve really missed liturgical worship but I’m lucky in a way, the Baptist church I attend is almost 200 years old, and still uses a very old order of worship.

Maybe I’ll visit the local Anglican parish this weekend for communion.

Conservative Churches More Likely to Grow

Re-blog from the Anglican Journal

Theologically conservative churches more likely to grow, study finds

A soon-to-be-published study of churches in southern Ontario suggests that theologically conservative churches are more likely to grow. Photo: Stester/Shutterstock
A soon-to-be-published study of churches in southern Ontario suggests that theologically conservative churches are more likely to grow. Photo: Stester/Shutterstock

In a study whose results he says will probably be controversial, a Canadian professor contends that theologically conservative mainline Protestant churches are more likely to grow while their liberal counterparts decline.

“It is clear that theological conservatism plays a role in distinguishing growing from declining mainline Protestant churches,” concludes Theology Matters: Comparing the Traits of Growing and Declining Mainline Protestant Church Attendees and Clergy, a paper to be published this month in the Review of Religious Research, an American scholarly journal.

The paper’s authors state that by “conservative,” they mean views that are typically held by conservative Protestants, such as a high regard for the authority of the Bible, a literal belief in teachings such as the deity and resurrection of Christ, and a belief that Christianity is true to the exclusion of other religions.

The article summarizes the results of a recent study done of 22 churches in southern Ontario, drawn from the Anglican Church of Canada, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, the Presbyterian Church in Canada and the United Church of Canada. Seeking to identify the possible reasons for growth and decline among mainline Protestant churches, the authors looked at both churches that had gained and lost congregants over the previous 10 years. It surveyed 2,255 regular attendants and 29 clergy on their theological views, religious practices and other matters; the study also involved interviews of clergy and selected congregants.

Lead author David Haskell, professor of religion and culture at Wilfrid Laurier University, and his team compared the survey results with whether the churches had been growing and declining, and identified a number of trends.

The features they found that tended to be most associated with growing churches, according to the paper, were, in order of importance: how churches used contemporary worship; their emphasis on youth programs; the theological conservatism of the clergy; and the theological conservatism of the parishioners.

Although theological conservatism actually came third and fourth on this list, the paper describes its importance as a predictor of church growth as the “most notable result” to emerge from the study. This, Haskell says, is because the authors conclude from the interviews they conducted that the first two factors were in some sense underlain by the second two.

The evangelical nature of conservative Protestant theology seemed to enjoin on these clergy and parishioners, he says, an unusually high desire to adopt practices—such as contemporary worship and youth programs—deemed more likely to attract new people.

“These people are willing to modify their services, be innovative in both their worship and in their youth programs because they are inspired by their doctrine to do so,” Haskell says. “If it means guitars and drums in church, then that’s going to happen. If it means a youth group that does paintball and then Bible study, then that’s going to happen.”

The survey found that both congregants and clergy of growing churches tended to score highly on a questionnaire intended to gauge their theological conservatism. For example, asked to agree or disagree with the statement, “Jesus rose from the dead with a real, flesh-and-blood body leaving behind an empty tomb,” 93 per cent of clergy and 83 per cent of parishioners from growing churches agreed, versus 56 per cent of clergy and 67 per cent of parishioners from declining churches. Asked to respond to the statement, “The beliefs of the Christian faith need to change over time to stay relevant,” 69 per cent of clergy from shrinking churches agreed, compared to zero per cent of clergy from growing churches.


David Haskell, professor of religion and culture at Wilfrid Laurier University and the author of Theology Matters. Photo: Contributed


Haskell’s paper acknowledges a 2014 report based on an 18-month survey of Church of England members, which claimed that theological orientation or “churchmanship” was an essentially insignificant predictor of church growth or decline. That paper argued that the prioritization of growth by clergy, a sense of clear mission and purpose among the congregation and an openness to change were more strongly associated with growing churches. But the Church of England study, Haskell says, suffered from some key flaws. Instead of surveying a large number of congregants, for example, it relied on answers posed only to a small number of “key informants.” And instead of attempting to gauge theological orientation by asking questions on specific points of belief, it asked respondents to locate where they stood on three scales—catholic vs. evangelical, liberal vs. conservative and charismatic vs. non-charismatic—a less reliable method, he says.

According to figures released this fall, the Church of England lost more than 100,000 regular worshippers over the past decade.

Even apart from the results of his study, Haskell says those who deny that church growth is linked to theological conservatism should ask themselves why evangelical churches have been growing in recent decades while mainline Protestant ones have been declining.

“You can say it’s not the theology, but you’d better be able to tell me what it is,” he says.

Dean Peter Elliott, of Christ Church Cathedral in Vancouver, says the study will likely affect people differently depending on the assumptions they hold about the importance of congregation growth versus other factors, such as truth in church teaching and preaching.

Elliott sees in the theological conservatism presented in the study an emphasis on clarity and simplicity—traits that are likely to appeal to people but often come at the expense of deeper understanding, he says. He hopes the study won’t sway church leaders toward more simplistic teaching in a bid to fill pews.

“I don’t doubt their research, but where that leads me is asking the question, ‘So what?’ ” he says. “I worry sometimes that studies like this can be dispiriting to those of us for whom our practice of Christianity moves more in the gray areas rather than black and white, and that acknowledges the complexity of theological questions and invites thoughtful engagement with the Christian way rather than a sort of blind obedience.”

Christ Church Cathedral, often regarded as a liberal church, has seen its congregation grow significantly over the past 20 years, he says. Elliott attributes this growth at least partly to its liberal theology. People are drawn to Christ Church, he says, because it encourages “thoughtful engagement” with Christianity. “I think people feel that their intellects are respected—that their Christian journeys are ongoing through a life,” he says.

Canon Barry Parker, rector of St. Paul’s Bloor Street in Toronto—one of the growing churches that took part in the study—says he wasn’t surprised to learn of its results. They seem to support what he’s seen in Anglican and other churches in North America, he says.

Parker says St. Paul’s Bloor Street is theologically conservative in terms of its adherence to creeds and other historic elements of the faith, though not necessarily conservative in its application of ministry.

The conservativism of his church, Parker says, has more to do with focusing on what’s essential in the Christian message than providing clarity and simplicity for their own sake. People are drawn to this emphasis on the historic teachings of the church because they’re seeking sustenance from timeless truths, he says.

“I know some people criticize us, saying people want black or white in this chaotic age, but my experience is very different,” he says. “I think people are looking for hope, and meaning, and purpose—those three particular things—and they want it with content. They want to know that what they can believe can stand the test of time, and the test of life.”

The Annunciation from the 1662 BCP

Sorry, this was supposed to be posted yesterday. Don’t worry folks, confessional Anglicans respect St. Mary, but do not ask her intercession.

Annunciation2The Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary from the

Book of Common Prayer 1662

The Collect.

WE beseech thee, O Lord, pour thy grace into our hearts; that, as we have known the incarnation of thy Son Jesus Christ by the message of an angel, so by his cross and passion we may be brought unto the glory of his resurrection; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

From the Epistle. Isaiah 7. 10: MOREOVER, the Lord spake again unto Ahaz, saying, Ask thee a sign of the Lord thy God; ask it either in the depth, or in the height above. But Ahaz said, I will not ask, neither will I tempt the Lord. And he said, Hear ye now, O house of David; Is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will ye weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. Butter and honey shall he eat, that he may know to refuse the evil, and choose the good.

The Gospel. St. Luke 1. 26: AND in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be. And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren. For with God nothing shall be impossible. And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.

Marian Theology?

our lady of walsingham anglican

Our Lady of Walsingham

Article 22, of the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion, clearly state:

“The Romish doctrine concerning Purgatory, Pardons, worshipping and adoration as well of Images as of Relics, and also Invocation of Saints, is a fond thing vainly invented, and grounded upon no warranty of Scripture; but rather repugnant to the word of God.” 

The 39 Articles of Religion were added to the Book of Common Prayer after the time of Thomas Cranmer, but we do know Cranmer re-wrote the ancient Collects to exclude the intercession of the Saints, including St. Mary. Anglicanism did not seek the intercession of Saints or seek prayers for the dead until the time of the Oxford Movement which tried to move the English Church toward Romanism. Before the Oxford Movement Anglicanism was Protestant in its worship and confessional stance – that a Christian is to approaching God the Father on the merit of Jesus Christ alone.

Yours in the Lord,

jm

PS: Always learning, always reforming.

The Presence of Christ’s Body in the Lord’s Supper

stainglass

Holy Trinity Anglican Church

John Calvin summaries, “our souls are fed by the flesh and blood of Christ in the same way that bread and wine keep and sustain physical life. For the analogy of the sign applies only if souls find their nourishment in Christ—which cannot happen unless Christ truly grows into one with us, and refreshes us by the eating of His flesh and the drinking of His blood.

Even though it seems unbelievable that Christ’s flesh, separated from us by such great distance, penetrates to us, so that it becomes our food, let us remember how far the secret power of the Holy Spirit towers above all our senses, and how foolish it is to wish to measure His immeasureableness by our measure. What, then our mind does not comprehend, let faith conceive: that the Spirit truly unites things separated in space.

Now, that sacred partaking of His flesh and blood, by which Christ pours His life into us, as if it penetrated into our bones and marrow, He also testifies and seals in the Supper—not by presenting a vain and empty sign, but by manifesting there the effectiveness of His Spirit to fulfil what He promises. And truly He offers and shows the reality there signified to all who sit at that spiritual banquet, although it is received with benefit by believers alone, who accept such great generosity with true faith and gratefulness of heart.

In this manner the Apostle said, “The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ?” (1 Cor 10:16; order changed). There is no reason for anyone to object that this is a figurative expression by which the name of the thing signified is given to the sign. I indeed admit that the breaking of bread is a symbol; it is not the thing itself. But, having admitted this, we shall nevertheless duly infer that by the showing of the symbol the thing itself is also shown. For unless a man means to call God a deceiver, he would never dare assert that an empty symbol is set forth by Him. Therefore, if the Lord truly represents the participation in His body through the breaking of bread, there ought not to be the least doubt that He truly presents and shows His body. And the godly ought by all means to keep this rule: whenever they see symbols appointed by the Lord, to think and be persuaded that the truth of the thing signified is surely present there. For why should the Lord put in your hand the symbol of His body, except to assure you of a true participation in it? But if it is true that a visible sign is given us to seal the gift of a thing invisible, when we have received the symbol of the body, let us no less surely trust that the body itself is also given to us.

Lectionary

I’ve started using the Revised Common Lectionary – it’s been a good experience. I still prefer reading a couple of chapters but have decided to try the lectionary for a while and I’ll admit, it’s been a positive experience so far and recommend trying it. It’s nice to walk into a church service being fed on scripture for a week in advanced on the theological themes being brought to mind during the worship service.

Here’s a quote highlighting 6 points or reasons for using a lectionary from Reformed Church in America :

THE REVISED COMMON LECTIONARY

The Revised Common Lectionary harmonizes the major variants of the three-year lectionary used in North America, bringing to church-goers across the continent the same Scripture passages each week.

The lectionary has several advantages:

1. It covers a great breadth of Scripture–the whole counsel of God.

2. It provides a sequence from week to week (frequently from the New Testament).

3. It relates the gospel of the New Testament to its Old Testament antecedents (including an appropriate Psalter passage).

4. It follows the Christian year, with its focus on Christ.

5. It speaks to the persons and work of the Trinity.

6. It protects the congregation from a narrow preoccupation with the New Testament to the exclusion of the Old Testament.

Yours in the Lord,

jm

Insights into Anglicanism

Michael P. Jensen is the author of Sydney Anglicanism: An Apology and (with Tom Frame) Defining Convictions and Decisive Commitments–The Thirty-Nine Articles in Contemporary Anglicanism. He is the rector of St Mark’s Anglican Church, Darling Point, in Sydney, Australia.st mark icon

1. Since the arrival of Christianity in Britain in the 3rd century, British Christianity has had a distinct flavor and independence of spirit, and was frequently in tension with Roman Catholicism. The Britons were evangelized by Irish missionary monks, and it wasn’t until the 7th century that the Roman church established its authority over Christianity in the British Isles, at the Synod of Whitby. But tensions continued until the 16th century.

2. The break with Rome in the 16th century had political causes, but also saw the emergence of an evangelical theology. The Church of England was not just a church of protest against the pope’s authority and his interference in English affairs. It was also a church that adopted a distinctly evangelical theology. The English Reformation cannot be reduced to the marital strife of Henry VIII.

3. Anglicanism is Reformed. The theology of the founding documents of the Anglican church—the Book of Homilies, the Book of Common Prayer, and the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion—expresses a theology in keeping with the Reformed theology of the Swiss and South German Reformation. It is neither Lutheran, nor simply Calvinist, though it resonates with many of Calvin’s thoughts.

4. Scripture is the supreme authority in Anglicanism. Article VI, “Of the sufficiency of the Holy Scriptures for Salvation,” puts it this way:

Holy Scriptures containeth all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation.

In Anglicanism, Scripture alone is supreme as the saving Word of God. Reason and tradition play an auxiliary role. This was the view of divines like Thomas Cranmer and Richard Hooker. There is a popular myth that Anglicanism views reason, tradition, and Scripture as a three-legged stool of authorities, but it is quite false.

5. Justification by faith alone is at the heart of Anglican soteriology. In its liturgy, its view of the sacraments, in its founding documents, and in the mind of Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, the Church of England holds that works do not save and cannot save a person. Only the blood of Jesus Christ is effective to save.

6. In Anglican thought, the sacraments are “effectual signs” received by faith. For Anglicans, the sacraments—the Lord’s Supper and baptism—do not convey grace in an automatic sense, or by a grace adhering to the objects used in them.

7. The Anglican liturgy—best encapsulated in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer—is designed to soak the congregation in the Scriptures, and to remind them of the priority of grace in the Christian life. There is grace on every page—it is not only the heart of Anglican theology, it is the heart of Anglican spirituality.

8. Anglicanism is a missionary faith, and has sponsored global missions since the 18th century. The sending and funding of missionaries to the far reaches of the globe to preach the gospel has been a constant feature of Anglican life, although this has happened through the various voluntary mission agencies as much as through official channels.

9. Global Anglicanism is more African and Asian than it is English and American. The center of contemporary Anglicanism is found in places like Nigeria, Uganda, and Kenya. In these places there are burgeoning Anglican churches, and a great deal of evangelism and church planting. There are strong Anglican churches too in Asia and elsewhere. Noticeably, where liberal theology has become dominant in Anglicanism—mainly in the “first world”—Anglicanism is rapidly shrinking, and is possibly only a generation from its demise.