The Decline of the Church of England

The past royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton brought the attention back to the Westminster Abbey in which they were married.

The building, in fact has a grand history behind it, and has by no means a sorry history. The church having been born “through the influences of St Alban, St Illtud, St Ninian, St Patrick and, later, St Augustine, St Aidan and St Cuthbert” These are not the weakest of Christians in the history of Christianity. Beginning as a humble church in 604AD built on an island on the River Thames, the building was refounded in 960AD. The church was supposed to have been miraculously consecrated by St Peter from his grave, this is something that the Pope pointed out in his address to the Abbey last September.

The architectural context of the Abbey is important, situated within the spiritual heart of London – the Parliamentary buildings were built close to this building, signifying the comparative importance of religion over politics. I am not going to comment whether this rings true today, but the building began as a beacon of light in those days, the shining diamond of the Church of England. But now, it seems to only be used as a meaningless beacon for no truth at all. That one day, royalty would get married inside, yet on Sunday and whatever day, they would struggle to be full of people singing hymns to God again. The statistics are dire, in only 3% of England attending the church of which is the established church of the country. Furthermore, this statistic is a once a monthly membership, which is hardly dedication.

“When a church forfeits its doctrinal convictions and then embraces ambiguity and tolerates heresy, it undermines its own credibility and embraces its own destruction.” Read more of this post

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An Exhortation for Unity from Psalms 133

King David mused in the Psalms about the usefulness of unity among brothers:

Behold, how good and pleasant it is

when brothers dwell in unity!
It is like the precious oil on the head,
running down on the beard,
on the beard of Aaron,
running down on the collar of his robes!
"It is like the dew of Hermon,
which falls on the mountains of Zion!
 For there the LORD has commanded the blessing,
life forevermore." 

Psalms 133 (English Standard Version)

He compares unity here to two things: running down the beard and robes of Aaron and also, the dew of Hermon which falls on Zion. With these two things he concludes that unity among brothers is what God has commanded, moreover he even calls it a blessing! In this blog I want to discuss the two things that David compares to the unity among brothers and some thoughts on their importance.

Firstly, the oil that was applied to Aaron is an image of what unity is like. The holy anointing oil would have had been a great fragrance, strongly perfumed and its odor would have been diffused in the space around. This would work with great pleasure to the bystanders when it was poured upon the head of Aaron. I wonder what fragrance we are giving out today. To our brothers and sisters in Christ, are we showing the love of Christ and diffusing a heavenly smell. Moreover, are we open to what our brothers and sister are diffusing, are our noses open to the wonders of God as well? In a sense (no pun intended) if we are only experiencing God through our ears, but not smelling, we are missing out so much on God’s fullness in our lives.

The second thing to take from the precious oil running down Aaron was that it was plentifully. So excessive that it ran down the face to his beard, and even down his collars of his robes! How plentiful is God’s grace to us, and how much should God’s grace indwell in us when we experience him, that it should flood our souls. Furthermore, he describes the oil as precious, something not ordinary. And indeed what great love that God has given us, not only for Himself, but as each other as well. The oil that David is describing here is an anointing oil that was only given to an select few among the whole nation of Israel. It says in Exodus:

“You shall consecrate them, that they may be most holy. Whatever touches them will become holy.”You shall anoint Aaron and his sons, and consecrate them, that they may serve me as priests.” Exodus 30:29-30.

To link it back to this passage, David is linking the consecration of these priests to a brotherhood that is a consequence of this. In other words, we are celebrating our salvation when we are united with one another. When we are saved and Holy Spirit is indwelt in us in a greater measure, we become like Aaron covered in Christ’s blood and part of God’s priesthood, there is no greater joy to us than fellowship with brothers and sisters!

Secondly, David compares unity to the dew of Hermon. Mount Hermon which David is referring to here is a prominent mountain, reaching a height of 9230 ft on the northern border of Israelite territory. The important thing here, is the height of the mountain is the highest within the whole Israel territory, that brings about a sense of the awesomeness of the mountain. David uses dew of Hermon as the source of water that rains on the mountains of Zion, or Jerusalem which we are more familiar with. To truly appreciate this, we have to look at a map to see what David is referring to:

Mount Hermon is the square in the top right, and Jerusalem the one in the bottom left.

The map shows us the source of water for Zion, coming down from the mountain, running down the River Jordan and to the Salt Sea. The water was a way of sustenance for the whole of Israel, bringing livelihood to the whole nation. Without this source of water, the whole nation of Israel couldn’t have continued operating. It makes you really think of what reliance we have on God that we so often forget, that we could have all our dreams destroyed swiftly by a natural disaster. What then is the power of man, if he cannot predict when the next earthquake is going to strike? David here is applies this reliance on God to unity, the need to be in synergy with the whole body of Christ. For what brother can live without fellowship and congregating frequently? What would a sister pursue if not continually communing with other believers?

Here also we have to be careful, when Hermon is within the Promised Land that Israel was given by God, so too does unity only apply to our brothers and sisters. As to who exactly are our brothers and sisters, I think it is orthodoxy is my primary measuring stick. For example, I would not consider polytheists, pantheists or atheists brothers and sisters, on the basis that they are not in Christ, though love them always. Divine love will always trump human love, notice that both examples that David uses, they are of God’s work, not ours. We do not anoint ourselves with oil, God does consecrate us with His Son’s blood – Man does not control when the ground is flooded or parched, but God brings the dew that refreshes us daily. Unity is not a human reaction to others, it is a natural working through of the Holy Spirit in our lives, that we should seek fellowship with one another.

The last two lines of this Psalm prescribes the greatness of this unity between brothers and sister. Unity is said to be a blessing that is coming from God himself, therefore it speaks of excellency. It speak of the “life forevermore”, therefore it is eternal blessedness in this state of God’s love. The Psalms is an argument for the excellency of brotherly love, if we are not continually united as a body, then we are not loving God. Simple as that. “As the perfection of love is the blessedness of heaven, so the sincerity of love is the earnest of that blessedness.” Matthew Henry

map source: http://www.netzarim.co.il/Shared/Temunot/Map%20Israel%201000%20BCE%20(Hammond)%20980×1427.jpg image source: http://www.colehardcash.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/Unity.jpg

Joel Osteen on Homosexuality

I must say, I am almost disrespectfully amused by Joel Osteen. Interviewed on CNN (watch it here) by the new anchor Piers Morgan, he was asked the thorny question with a simple answer:

“Is homosexuality a sin?”

“Yes, I’ve always believed it. The Scripture shows that it’s a sin.”

“I say it’s wrong because that’s what the Scripture says,” Osteen stated, the pastor of America’s largest church, Lakewood Church located in Houston Texas. Thereafter he went on explaining that he can’t pick and choose parts of the Bible which you like, and discard the parts which do not suit him. He also added that he’s not “one of those to bash homosexuals and tell them they’re terrible people….I’m not the judge. You know, God didn’t tell me to go around judging everybody.” Of which, I’m not so hot about, but yeah, I don’t see how you can avoid judging them. Obviously, a statement of that magnitude and startling clarity attracted a multitude of chatter among Christians.

The most surprising of reactions was probably Rev. Dr. Miguel de la Torre, a Baptist minister and member of the HRC Religion Council. He said, quoting:

“As a Southern Baptist and an ethicist I believe that we can’t follow Jesus’ commandment to love God and our neighbor as our self if we start with the premise that homosexuality is sinful,” Torre argued. “Starting with the belief that people are sinful doesn’t allow us to get to know them, let alone love them.”

I’m not sure if he’s aware of the passage in Romans 5 which says:

“Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (v.7-8)

The passage clearly precludes knowledge of sin, and makes it paramount to salvation. While a good person might be worth dying for, giving a reason. A disability to reason was God’s reason to save us from our sins. Being altogether unable to help ourselves out of that condition. Lost in our ways and no visible way open for our recovery. Completely depraved and deplorable and desperately in need of a Saviour. Therefore, we are the ones, of which, salvation is due to most. If God so much didn’t acknowledge out sinful state, how could he have begun to thought that we needed love, in the form of Jesus, our Lord and Saviour?

The biggest hurdle I believe for homosexuals todays is either the demonization, or the deregulation of homosexuality (two different extremes) to the point where it is a entire identity. This is the disunity, where people become less than human, they are homosexual or heterosexual, and segregated accordingly. I kind of understand where Torre is coming from, there is a place for relationships and it is paramount for preaching the gospel. But the diminution of homosexuality as a sin is dishonest and the Gospel is essential changing our identity of how we see the world. While we were still homosexuals, thieves, murderers, haters of our brothers, we were brought to the feast of which we paid nothing, and actually owed an unpayable debt to the King of the table. How can one be justified then reconciled to God, if he has nothing to have justified from?

The reality is, it’s got nothing to do with homosexuals. If true love is demonstrated through Jesus dying on the cross, how can anyone know love without knowing how much they do not deserve it? If anything, Rev Torre is attempting to dumb down the love of God, a cheap grace as you would have it. For one, I find myself agreeing with Joel Osteen more and more in his statement. I challenge him now to justify his health-wealth Gospel according to the Bible…

“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.” (Romans 5v.6)