Friday, December 15, 2017

The Rapid and Open Development of Christology – Ignatius

A myth pushed by popular and once prestigious media is that orthodox church teaching on Christ is practically an invention of Constantine and some shadowy Magisterium.  Such revision of history transforms the Council of Nicaea into an incense-filled room more intent on suppressing the truth or inventing truth than in guarding it and propagating it.

Yet the truth of the matter is that church teaching on Christology developed rapidly long before Nicaea and the rest of the ecumenical councils.  Really this development began with the risen Christ teaching the Apostles about himself from the scriptures before the Ascension.  And the Christological teaching of the Apostles and their successors wasn’t done in the shadows but in the churches and even at times in the streets.  That is clear not only from the New Testament but also from writings of the Apostolic and later Fathers.  In letters and sermons read and preached to congregations, we can see that catholic Christology developed rapidly and openly.

Thus began the Patristics paper I was working on when I was not blogging here.  (Sorry I almost disappeared for a while, but priorities….)  With Christmas nearing, we will be sure to see more rubbish that God becoming man – that baby in the manger being God Incarnate – was not a marvelous loving act of God but an invention of the later church.  So now is a good time to note that the church got it right very early: that baby was both God and man, the Christ.

Perhaps the best source on that in the generation after the apostles and the writing of what became the New Testament is St. Ignatius.  As he was being led on his long trip to the lions and martyrdom early in the 2nd Century, he wrote a number of letters to churches, of which we have six.  Impending death can aid candor, and that seemed to be the case with Ignatius.  Among the subjects about which he was very frank was the deity and manhood of Christ.  Note that the six letters addressed whole congregations, not just church leaders.

From my paper:
John’s Gospel was the most clear and developed of the four in proclaiming the deity of Christ.  His pupil Ignatius is even more straightforward.  To the Ephesians, he repeatedly calls Jesus “our God” and even writes that it is “God’s blood” that saves them and stirs them to sanctification.  He also calls Jesus “our God” when writing the church at Rome, and in begging the Romans not to intervene to prevent his martyrdom he asks, “Let me imitate the Passion of my God.”  To the Smyrnaeans, he praises “Jesus Christ, the God who has granted you such wisdom” and later calls him “the Christ God.”

         At the same time, he assertively teaches the other side of the Incarnation – the humanity of Christ.  He did not give room to those who diminish either the deity or humanity of Christ and was especially eloquent in teaching both sides of the Incarnation to the Ephesian church:

There is only one physician – of flesh yet spiritual, born yet unbegotten, God incarnate, genuine life in the midst of death, sprung from Mary as well as God, first subject to suffering then beyond it – Jesus Christ our Lord. [7]

The heresy of Docetism, that taught that Jesus only seemed to be a man, goaded Ignatius to be every bit as adamant about the manhood of Christ as he was about the deity of Christ. To the Trallians, he wrote that Jesus “was really born, ate, and drank; was really persecuted under Pontius Pilate; was really crucified and died, . . . was really raised from the dead . . . apart from whom we have no genuine life.”

Thus just a decade or two after the death of the last Apostle, St. John, Ignatius got it that Jesus Christ was completely God from eternity and completely man from his conception and birth.

And that is the theme of Christmas, is it not?  That babe in the manger was Very God of Very God and “the Word made flesh” for us and for our salvation.  If one was blessed enough to attend a Christ-mass celebrated by a church father, one likely to hear this, the Incarnation, preached.


It just so happens that Augustine’s preaching of the Incarnation on Christmas Day will be the subject of a talk I will give on St. John’s Day, December 27th in Texas.  Get ahold of me if you want more details.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

About Pope Francis Tinkering with the Lord’s Prayer

As if Pope Francis has not committed enough enormities, now he wants to tinker with translations of the Lord’s Prayer.  By far the best I’ve read on this situation comes from that prickly scholar John Hunwicke here and here, and I will defer to him.  Personally, he increased my education concerning the Lord’s Prayer.

He points out that the exact meaning of some of the Lord’s Prayer is a bit of a mystery, the meaning of “our daily bread” being one example.  And a man with any humility would be hesitant to nail down the “correct” meaning by altering a received rendering.

Of course, that excludes Pope Francis.

Fr. Hunwicke continues,
My second reason for making no change is pastoral. Back in the 1970s, we in the Church of England did indeed experiment with 'modern' translations of the Pater noster. Those experimental forms are now, I think, rarely used. The reason is: the clergy discovered that among infrequent church-goers, including the house-bound sick and elderly, and those attending Baptisms, Weddings, and Funerals, and the Midnight Mass brigade, the Lord's Prayer was the only formula they knew. Any other liturgical memories they had lingering from their childhoods had been rendered out-of-date by the liturgical revolutions of the 1960s. Was it 'pastoral' to deprive such people of the only remaining bit of a worship-experience which was in the least familiar to them ... which had any sort of purchase upon their memories?

In his second post, he focuses on the clause Francis wants to mangle. Hunwicke notes that the meaning of “temptation” in the Lord’s Prayer is not what most think it is; it likely refers more to extreme testing such as persecution more than everyday temptation to sin.  Francis’ proposal misses that.  Therefore,

… in my opinion, PF is proposing a revision which is not, as he appears to have been told, a revised translation but a radical change in the meaning of the Greek original. With sorrow, I have to say that this new example of his gigantic self-confidence does not surprise me.

He then makes interesting observations concerning Pope Francis and his selection. But at this point, I will urge you to go read the whole thing.

Thursday, December 07, 2017

A Reminder: Franken Stole His Way Into the Senate

With Al Franken widely expected to announce his resignation from the U.S. Senate today, now is a good time to remember that he should never have become a Senator in the first place.  He, George Soros, felons, and an army of DemocRATS stole his first “election” in 2008.

To the annoyance of some, I covered this back then.  One can find a sample of that here.

It is interesting that in all the TV news coverage I’ve seen so far, I cannot remember his first “election” to the Senate being mentioned as even controversial.  That is a bit important concerning his background, is it not?  If one is such a cretin to subvert democracy by stealing an election, one is capable of just about anything . . . including stealing sexual favors.

Elections have consequences.  Stolen elections have worse consequences.  Al Franken is surely Exhibit A in that regard.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Why the AMiE Ordinations are Necessary

The Anglican Mission in England (AMiE) will hold its first ordination service Thursday in London.  Which begs the question: are these ordinations outside the Church of England necessary?

Yes for a number of reasons, but one is enough – orthodox traditionalists, either evangelical or Anglo-Catholic, are less and less welcome among the clergy in the Church of England.  Oh you mossback orthodox laity, of which there are many, do keep sending in those offerings please.  But if you are called to holy orders…

Is there a single robustly orthodox Church of England diocesan bishop anymore?  I’m aware of none.  And more and more candidates for holy orders are having experiences like one told in the Times:

One was blocked from ordination because he expressed his conviction that every church leader should believe and teach that Jesus is the only way to be saved.  He was told that he didn’t have a broad enough understanding of the different traditions in the Church of England.

Related is an excellent dissection of Libchurch “dialogue” from once CofE Anglo-Papalist John Hunwicke:

Their idea of 'discussion' or 'dialogue' meant them shouting abuse until their foes fell silent. They demanded that we 'hear their experience' purely as a preliminary to getting out their cudgels. They would never engage in rational argument because, happy pantomaths, they already knew every answer. They had made bullying into a fine art. To disagree with them was but to manifest one's own psychological problems - one's phobias and hang-ups and prejudices. What defences had we, or the methods by which Divinity had hitherto been done on the banks of the Isis or even of the Cam, against this ruthless and Stalinist totalitarianism and its Dahlek-like readiness to ex-ter-min-ate?

Yes, “exterminate” is a strong word.  But robustly orthodox Church of England clergy are at the very least an endangered species in several dioceses thanks to apostate bishops who will not have them.  That’s what “inclusiveness” looks like.

So although I enthusiastically support orthodox ministry in the Church of England, an outside strategy is necessary as well.  In some areas of the U.K., there is hardly much choice about it any more.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Headline of the Day

To say I highly respect former Dean Robert Munday would be an understatement.  But I did not think he had it in him to pull off a brilliant lampoon.  But he did that yesterday with this headline:

Bigoted Progressive Church of Sweden Refuses To Call God By His Preferred Gender Pronouns

To troll gender lunacy and the Church of Sweden at the same time like that takes talent! 

And/or perhaps, as he notes, reality has become so absurd, it transcends humor and satire.

Do read the rest of his post, too.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

A Correlation Between Politics and Morality?

I remember, decades ago, a Christian Right group put out an election guide with the stands of various candidates. It was labeled a “Morality Scorecard” or the like.  I apologize that I cannot remember more details nor find them via internet search.  (Those search engines can be close to useless when it comes to obscure details of history.)  If anyone remembers or finds more, feel free to comment.  I also apologize and warn that I will be speaking in generalities here.

With those caveats, what I do remember is that the group in question was excoriated for implying that one’s votes and political stands are a good measure of morality.  How dare they say politicians who vote wrong somehow are immoral! How dare they say that there is a correlation between one’s politics and one’s morality!

Well, although the group may have been a bit crude in the way they stated there is such a correlation, recent events seem to be proving them right in more ways than one.  It is hard to miss that the recent sexual harassment scandals blowing up here in the U. S. overwhelmingly involve Democrats - Harvey Weinstein, Al Franken, John Conyers, Al Green, etc.

I can hear the reflex rebuttals now.  “What about Republicans like Roy Moore?”  If there were as many Republicans who mistreated women so blatantly, the Democrat News Media would surely be trotting them out and fast.  As for Roy Moore, the allegations against him smell increasingly like a pre-election dirty trick that is getting more debunked by the day.  But trust me, I think a lot of Republicans are scum, too.

And, to anticipate another question, the correlation I see is general not specific.  In other words, there are Leftist Democrats who are otherwise good people, and there are conservative Republican who are stinkers.  Heck, I once engaged in political combat against a few of them.

But to think there is no correlation between morality in public life and morality in private life is fantasy.  Someone who attacks freedom of speech, the right to life, basic property rights, the Constitutional rule of law, the right to defend oneself, traditional Christian values etc., etc. is probably going to be a sticker in private as well.

And now that stink is suddenly getting out and becoming public as well.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

The Sunday Next Before Advent and Ten Years

The Sunday Next Before Advent has always had a special place in my heart since I’ve become Anglican.  To me, “The Sunday Next Before Advent” just sounds Anglican.  More importantly, it means Advent is just about here.  In fact I am listening to Advent music as I type this.  Hey if the world pushes Christmas since before Halloween, I can begin celebrating Advent a week early.

As I was talking to a friend this past week, it occurred to me that it is ten years since I observed this Sunday in Oxford and at Pusey House.  That was a joyful Sunday for me indeed.

This post four years ago gives a good idea how much that Sunday and this Sunday means to me.  I hope it is special for you as well.