Notes from a Byzantine-Rite Calvinist

31 May 2010

Newbigin on liberation theologies

In my youth I was fairly sympathetic with the aims of liberation theology, although I could never bring myself to accept this position in toto, as there was too much in the larger worldview that did not quite sit right with me. With liberation theologians I confess that God has called us to care for the poor and to free the oppressed from the chains of oppression. However, the boundary between oppressor and oppressed refuses to hold still and trying to pin it down proves repeatedly to be in vain.

Years ago I came across this wonderful passage from Bishop Lesslie Newbigin’s The Gospel in a Pluralist Society, which concisely and astutely puts into words the central difficulty with the various forms of liberation theology. The immediate context sees Newbigin responding to those who employ the hermeneutic of suspicion in their defence of the oppressed. To stave off this hermeneutic’s relativistic implications, they are forced to assert that, in contrast to the oppressors who are blinded by a class-based self-interest, the oppressed see things the way they really are. However, there are evident problems with this approach. I could not have stated them better than Newbigin does here:Read more »

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Which Wheaton?

TIME Magazine’s News Feed carries the story: Ann Curry Flubs Wheaton College Commencement.

Curry delivered Saturday’s speech to graduates at Wheaton College in Massachusetts, referencing the esteemed careers of a trio of alumni — reverend Billy Graham, film director Wes Craven and politician Dennis Hastert.

As the AP reports, the only problem was that each of those distinguished graduates went to another Wheaton College — in Illinois.

Graham, Hastert and Craven would have had great difficulty earning the East Coast education. Up until 1988, Wheaton (Mass.) was an all-girls institution.

Curry quickly copped to her mistake, releasing a statement on the university website: “I am mortified by my mistake, and can only hope the purity of my motive, to find a way to connect with the graduates and to encourage them to a life of service, will allow you to forgive me.”

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30 May 2010

Trinity Sunday

Rublev's Old Testament Trinity

Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
All Thy works shall praise Thy Name,
in earth, and sky, and sea;
Holy, holy, holy; merciful and mighty!
God in three Persons, blessèd Trinity!

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22 May 2010

Controversy over abortion remarks

Cardinal Marc Ouellet, the Roman Catholic primate of Canada, has stirred up controversy by reiterating his church’s position on abortion at a recent pro-life conference. In response, Charles Lewis asks: Is the Pope Catholic?

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Canadian court defends religious freedom . . . or does it?

The Charter of Rights and Freedoms claims to guarantee all Canadians certain fundamental freedoms, including “freedom of conscience and religion” and “freedom of association.” However, following American precedent this country’s courts have tended to interpret religious freedom rather narrowly, viz., as the right of individual citizens to worship freely. Whether communities are recognized to possess religious freedom is unclear in contemporary jurisprudence, given the dominating influence of liberalism.

Take the recent case of Heintz v. Christian Horizons. Christian Horizons is a more than 40-year-old organization dedicated to the care of mentally handicapped persons. Like many confessional organizations, it has a faith and lifestyle statement which employees are required to sign. Ten years ago an employee was dismissed for not living up to this statement. She filed a complaint with the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal, which ruled in her favour two years ago, holding that a Christian ministry could not impose such requirements on its own employees if it served the larger community rather than its own members. On appeal, however, the Ontario Divisional Court in Toronto upheld the right of Christian Horizons to adopt such a statement. Or did it?

The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada immediately claimed victory for charities across the country. Others were not so sure: Faith-based charity ruling too murky, experts say. Even the EFC’s general legal counsel Don Hutchinson, writing in the National Post, was less than favourably impressed by the ruling: Heintz v Christian Horizons: Solomon would not approve. So is religious freedom in Canada secure? Despite the Charter guarantees that appear to say yes, court interpretations leave the matter open.

While we are on the subject of religious freedom, I will take the opportunity to call American readers’ attention once more to the important work being done by my friend Stanley Carlson-Thies and the Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance in Washington, DC, which “works to safeguard the religious identity and faith-shaped standards and services of faith-based organizations, enabling them to make their distinctive and best contributions to the common good.” Given the high stakes involved, it deserves the moral, financial and prayer support of the larger Christian community. Right now we could use such an effort in the True North Strong and Free.

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10 May 2010

Benedictine Lutherans


As I discovered in my youth, the Missouri-Synod Lutherans deliberately cultivate a Benedictine spirituality amongst their membership. I initially came into contact with the ancient Liturgy of the Hours in Herbert Lindemann, ed., The Daily Office, subtitled, “Matins and Vespers, Based on Traditional Liturgical Patterns, with Scripture Readings, Hymns, Canticles, Litanies, Collects, and the Psalter, Designed for Private Devotion or Group Worship” (St. Louis: Concordia, 1965). I purchased this little volume at the bookstore of Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota, back in 1978. In recent weeks I have been praying through this book: Treasury of Daily Prayer, also published by Concordia two years ago. This was on the recommendation of the Rev. Paul McCain, the Publisher at Concordia and former Evangel blogger. Unlike the earlier book, this one is huge, taking up 1,500 pages, which means it does not travel easily. At this point I plan to use this resource for one year, after which I will write a review. The Concordia website includes a preview.

For now I will note two things. First, musical settings for the prayer offices are included, which would be wonderful for use in a community devoted to this form of prayer, albeit less appropriate for personal private prayer. Second, each day is assigned an Old Testament and a New Testament lesson. The OT readings for the season after Easter are from the Pentateuch, and I have noticed that they tend to focus on some of the harsher elements within those first five books, such as the death of Aaron's sons (Leviticus 10:1-20), punishments for sexual transgressions (Lev. 20:10-16) and the punishment for blasphemy (Lev. 24:10-16). Given my belief that all of scripture is God's word, I have no objection to the inclusion of such passages in what is effectively a one-year lectionary. Yet given the confessional Lutheran emphasis on the tension between law and gospel, I cannot but wonder whether the selection of readings is part of a larger agenda. I suspect I will know once I've made my way through more of the readings.

I wish that more Reformed Christians would adopt something of this pattern of Benedictine daily prayer and that our churches would publish their own resources for this. Tapping into this ancient pattern would greatly enrich our practice of prayer.

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Anglicans bent on smaller Australia

Australian Anglicans have made a doctrinal pronouncement to the effect that having children is tantamount to breaking the eighth commandment (or the seventh, if you are Catholic or Lutheran): Anglicans argue for fewer kids. According to this report in The Sydney Morning Herald,

The Anglican Church wants Australians to have fewer children and has urged the federal government to scrap the baby bonus and cut immigration levels. The General Synod of the Anglican Church has issued a warning that current rates of population growth are unsustainable and potentially out of step with church doctrine – including the eighth commandment “thou shall not steal”, Fairfax newspapers say. In a significant intervention, the Anglican Public Affairs Commission has also warned concerned Christians that remaining silent “is little different from supporting further overpopulation and ecological degradation”.

Although the strongly evangelical and reformed Sydney Diocese links to this story from its website, it gives no hint as to whether or not it agrees.

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Rumour has it. . .

. . . that Apple’s big breakthrough into the field of optometry will come with the introduction of the revolutionary new iGlasses.

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