Thursday, December 31, 2015

Genesis 1:27

I'm starting again to read through the Bible in a year. So Genesis 1, the beginnings of creation and God's order. In 1:26-27 we learn about Gid's basic order of humankind, created to bear the image of God in the complementary duality of mal and female. 
The progressive Western mindset rejects God and does not want to see God's image anywhere, so it is not surprising that there is such a push to deny the complementary nature of humanity as male and female - in the same sex marriage agenda and the new inner gender diversity. But still the created order unavoidable - to be fruitful as sub creators of human lives l, there is no other way than to unite the male and the female. 

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Thoughts about the Deconstruction of Marriage currently underway

The recent US Supreme Court's decision to rule in favour of a constitutional right to same-sex marriage moves the sexual revolution's unravelling of conjugal marriage to a new stage. The full assessment of the consequences of this will be seen as years pass. It is certainly a redefinition of marriage, not just an inclusion of same sex unions in the existing institution. For those who already hold the romantic concept of marriage, it is an obvious step and they can't see any rational reason to oppose it- concluding that opposition must be prejudice and driven by bigotry.
On the view that marriage is essentially a conjugal union, these legalisation steps mean the  deconstruction of marriage. Ross Douthat sums up the threshold: "If marriage can be redefined according to what we desire — that is, if there is no essential nature to marriage, or to gender — then there are no boundaries on marriage. Marriage inevitably loses its power."
This will not be the end of this road; the logic of the revisionist case entails more permutations. The U.S. Chief Justice in dissent pointed out some of these. 

I wonder whether all the rainbow bandwagon people right now realise the implications of their sympathising. 
I remember reading at university the Marxist theorists that advocated a new front for the revolution in the West given the receding hope of political revolution - to conduct a 'long march through the institutions'. Their idea was to undermine the West by corrupting and subverting its culture. Starting with sexual progressivism, they are now captured the sanctuary of marriage in jurisdictions like the US. 

As Douthat says in his NYTimes article, the next step will be to come after the social conservatives, and crush dissent through anti-discrimination actions. The mechanisms are in place. It is not just legal sanction that is on view now, but social endorsement. There is a new sexual orthodoxy taking control and dissent is portrayed as pernicious and prejudiced. 

If my government decides to change the legal view of marriage, so be it. I will stick with my adherence to the conjugal view, which has a long history and is in sync with nature and biology. Wisdom, love and courage will be needed in a new social climate. 

Friday, June 5, 2015

Centred Anglicanism: A Proposal about Anglican Identity

In my part of the Anglican world, we have been talking about our identity as a Diocese, which raises the issue of how the various streams of tradition in our Church can live and work together. Here is my proposal for a constructive way forward, beyond the tribalism that has been so marked. These views are my own.



Centred Anglicanism: A Proposal
Tribalization, Toleration  or Integration
1.       The Anglican Church has within its life a number of traditions: Anglo-Catholicism; Liberal; Evangelical; Charismatic. These have flowed in dynamic ways through our church’s history, growing stronger or weaker on occasions; blending some times (e.g. liberal catholic Anglicans, and evangelical charismatic Anglicans), while at other times operating tribally, excluding each other or marginalising the other kinds.
2.       There is a tendency for like to attract like and for ecclesiastical traditions to protect a dominant tradition. Sydney Diocese defines itself in a number of ways to preserve its characteristic evangelical character, as do other Australian dioceses too. Dioceses will tolerate a limited presence of the disfavoured tradition in their midst, but limits to expansion will be in place, whatever words are spoken about valuing and learning from the minority traditions.
3.       In this context, magnified by distance, history, Diocesan boundaries, church law and polarizing issues, the Australian Anglican Church is seriously tribalized. “Broad Anglicanism” has disappeared. Bishop Tom Frame has lamented the loss of consensus Anglicanism, claiming that this situation is imperilling the survival and mission of the Anglican Church of Australia.[1]
4.       The tribalization of the four traditions of Anglicanism means that they are not able to balance and enrich one another. More importantly, they are prevented from moderating one another. We have seen our own version of the ‘Delta Effect’ of church history noted by Richard Lovelace.[2] As the main channel of church history proceeds forward, streams break away over some issue, leaving behind much with them. These in turn have later tributaries and when other breaks occur, the face of the church resembles not a mighty strong river of God but a shallow, weak, dispersed delta of eccentric creeks.
The Delta effect happens within the main traditions too, which become fragmented through splits and divergent influences. Thus Anglo-Catholicism has split into traditionalists and liberal catholics: so too has the evangelical tradition branched into conservatives, liberal evangelicals and charismatic evangelicals. Those in the branches of the church delta can find themselves far away in practice and thought from others.
5.       Sometimes minority traditions have been ejected by the dominant group. The removal of 2000 Church of England Puritans by tests of conscience in 1662 stands out. They were not able to train their clergy in their own tradition for several centuries. Most of the time, marginalization is carried out by appointment policy and cultural segregation. We have a new set of tests to apply to the consciences of clergy applicants to ensure we preserve our purity. The schisms of church history have usually weakened the church.
6.       This fragmentation brings weakness within Anglicanism. The particular gifts and moderating influence of the traditions enrich the whole. What happens to the Anglican Church in any Diocese when evangelicalism is expelled or marginalised? You end with a church that loses the gift of evangelism and the strong Biblical base that is necessary for renewal. Tom Frame considers what would happen if the evangelical tradition were to be removed from the Anglican Church of Australia: “Without the Evangelical witness, the Anglican Church would lose its distinctive character and eventually resemble the liberal Protestant churches whose demise is only a matter of time.”[3]
7.       As the tribal traditions within Anglicanism separate, they become self-referencing and develop like Galapagos island animals. Isolated from a living interdependence with other traditions, the tribes become more extreme and eccentric versions of themselves. My problem with the labels is that they focus our minds on the boundaries and definitional limits. “Catholic” is in opposition to “Evangelical”; “Charismatic” is in opposition to “Evangelical”. The evangelical tradition in which I was nurtured ruled out some of the Biblical gifts of the Spirit, teaching that they had ceased. I was warned off any contaminating contact with charismatics and there was explicit teaching against this tradition. Each party has its circumcision issue or boundary markers. These function to exclude others and protect the group. The history of the Anglican Church of Australia in the past 30 years is the sad story of fragmentation.
8.       The tribal use of the terms “liberal”, “evangelical”, “catholic” is apparent on closer consideration. Evangelicals are also catholics in the historic sense. Catholic Anglicans should hold to the gospel and the apostolic faith. The usage is defined by the edges, not the centre. If we say that a Diocese is a catholic Diocese, members of the evangelical tradition will hear the clear message that they are a minority. One ordination candidate of evangelical tradition was asked by a fellow ordinand what he was doing in this Diocese, since it is a liberal catholic one.
9.       The four streams of Anglicanism can be viewed as each giving slightly different emphasis to the four sources of authority in God: the Institution, the Book, the Inner Light/Spirit and human Reason.  But most members of these traditions would hold to the value of all four bases of belief. For example, Anglican Evangelicalism has a distinguished valued emphasis on scholarship, and Reason. It is at the unbalanced extremes of each tradition that you get the stereotypical difficulties of integration: the crazy charismatic,[4] the ultra-liberal who has lost hold of Biblical faith; the fundamentalist with narrow Biblicism. Richard Hooker’s famous threefold sources of authority are usually found in the main Anglican traditions, even if the balance is struck in different degrees.
10.   I believe that a way forward is to focus on the centre, not the periphery. I call it “Centred Anglicanism”. The centre will be the core of classical Christianity as held by most Anglicans. Thus, the work of Christ for our salvation would be non-negotiable, even if the nature of the atonement is understood differently. In Centred Anglicanism there will be an atoning work of Christ.
11.   Centred Anglicanism has a good claim to embody the Anglican essence.  The Anglican Church has its roots in the classic Christianity of the Scriptures and the Creeds, which is the basis for church growth seen around the world. We have a rich tradition of worship in the sacramental and sensory mode. From our Reformation heritage we have the evangelical strength of Biblical teaching and gospel proclamation. Out of the Wesley Anglican revival came the roots of modern rediscovery of the dynamic presence of the Holy Spirit in the renewal tradition. Charismatic renewal has been active in world-wide Anglicanism for decades. Centred Anglicanism will keep the sacramental worship alive by the gifts of the Holy Spirit. It will value reason and Biblical teaching, worship as well as evangelism.
12.   The NCD Trinitarian compass has similarities to this vision of Centred Anglicanism. The NCD concept explains the different emphases in the Christian Church as representing an aspect of God’s being and purposes as experienced by us.
·         The Green dimension represents the rational, reflective aspect of life as seen in God’s Creation. Churches and individuals can focus on society, the world, on science, knowledge, art and politics. Here we are encountering God as Creator.
·         The Red dimension places revelation and redemption in the focus. The truth of God, commitment to God and the proclamation of the Word of God are emphasised. Here we encounter God as the Redeemer, Jesus.
·         The Blue dimension emphasizes the dynamic presence of God the Holy Spirit in transformation and power. Here we are experiencing God the Holy Spirit.
13.   The problem for Anglicans is that we have so lost the centre and the genetic diversity of Centred Anglicanism through selected breeding and segregation, that we no longer understand what it could look like in practice. It is not enough to say that we value and learn from the other traditions. In Centred Anglicanism we will find ways to integrate the strengths in a deeper, natural way. A Centred Anglican Diocese will not be like a mosaic where most of the tiles have a dominant colour, with a few different colours found here and there, for effect and the appearance of diversity. Rather it will be like a hologram, a moving picture with depth,  created by the blending and interaction of different colours.





[1] Tom Frame, A House Divided? p. 30
[2] Richard F. Lovelace, Dynamics of Spiritual Life, (IVP, 1979), 322.
[3] Tom Frame, above, p.96.
[4] See Julia Dunn, Days of Fire and Glory: The Rise and Fall of a Charismatic Community. (2010)

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Conditional Immortality and the Practice of Evangelism

Here is the video of my lecture at last year's Rethinking Hell Conference in Houston USA, on the topic of how Conditional Immortality affects the way we share the good news of Christ.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2EbCduJTjSM&feature=youtu.be

The lecture will appear in a fuller form in a forthcoming book of essays.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

A Fascinating Memoir of Theological Journey to Wilderness and Back

I read recently Thomas Oden's memoir " A Change of Heart". Oden was a leading theological liberal progressive or radical in the 1960''s. Having abandoned every semblance of Christian orthodoxy he was led to "the feverish search for something else to justify a denuded Christian faith." He tells the story of his journey to the theological far country until 40 and then he has spent the second forty years serving the historic orthodox Christian Faith. He makes some very candid admissions about the mindset of a theological radical liberal like himself.
He says: " I had been enamoured with novelty, candidly, I had been in love with heresy."
He worked for years within the Methodist church USA, serving in theological educations and denominational committees. So he worked within churches with people who held the faith he had abandoned. How did he work alongside many orthodox church members while holding different views? He confesses: "The trick was to learn to sound Christian while undermining traditional orthodoxy."
Oden tells the long story of how he grew disillusioned with theological liberalism and discovered the truth and power of historic classical orthodoxy. It was the early church fathers who had addressed the questions he had been asking. Oden saw in his own career what this radical emptying of Christian Faith diminished and virtually destroyed the mainstream theological seminaries of the U.S. he saw how vibrant churches thrived in orthodoxy:"The more traditional, the more flourishing".


This memoir should be compulsory reading for all theological teachers, students and denominational leaders. It has a lot of relevance and prophetic application to our own church and others like it.