Friday, December 9, 2016

Response to "12 Reasons Millennials are OVER Church"



This past week--oh wait! First: I graduated! I'm so happy! Now, on to Seminary!

Ahem. Anyway, this past week I came across an interesting article titled, "12 Reasons Millennials are OVER Church", I tend to avoid these types of articles, but it was shared on the page of a non-denominational pastor friend of mine by one of his parishioners, so I decided to read it.

The article comes from a man who claims to want to love and promote the Church, but is finding her flaws too numerous and deep to feel comfortable doing so. He then lists his and, he assumes, other Millennials' reasons that "we" are done with the Church.

I want to go through his article, point-by-point, and respond to his contentions; I found some good, some bad, and some, well, wrong assumptions in the reasons he gave. I hope this helps you all:

Response to Reason #1: Nobody's Listening to Us


I...honestly, I don't see this. This is an assertion, not based in any fact. He provides no reason to claim that this is the case. It certainly isn't the case in my parish, as I am heavily involved in it and listened to, as a Millennial. And my parish is INCREDIBLY traditional. I've also been to, well, a LOT of the churches in my city in Middle Tennessee. I can tell you that, of necessity, most of these churches are listening to Millennials. If they aren't, they're not growing and in fact are dwindling.

Response to Reason #2: We're Sick of Hearing About Values and Mission Statements

This one is rather confusing to me. He first admits that it's important to move in the same direction, but then complains that many churches have tools that help us understand that direction: those tools being "values" and "mission statements".

"'Love God. Love others." Task completed.' he states.

But it's not that simple. That is what all of the law hangs on...but there are questions involved in that. Who is God? What does it mean to "love"? Is it loving to approach my friend who is sleeping with his girlfriend and say, "Hey, brother, we are called to keep ourselves pure until marriage"? or should I ignore it "out of love"? Is love an emotional feeling or a commitment? And if it's the latter--which it is--then what does that commitment entail? What commitments do I have to God and man?

I mean, if "all that matters" is "Love God. Love others." then why is the Bible so darn huge? Why didn't God just tattoo that on each of our arms and call it a day, if that's all that matters?

The fundamental problem I see in this point (and I suspect we'll see it more and more throughout this article) is that there is this American pragmatism mindset going on. We can sort of, apparently, whittle down the Faith to JUST these two commands.

While it's true that all of God's laws hang on these two commands...that's not the same as being able to distill all of Christianity down to this. Here, let me give you an example:

What's The Lord of the Rings about?

Well, it's about some small guy trying to destroy a ring.

Okay, yes. It's about that. But it's MORE than simply that. While it is true that without Frodo you have no story that can be accurately called "The Lord of the Rings", you can't simply go to passages where ONLY Frodo is talked about, then claim that you've read the series. You can't tell people only those sections, then claim that you've told them the whole story.

Jesus didn't tell us that the Law and Prophets hang on these two laws because He wanted us to reduce our lives to that; Jesus told us that the Law and Prophets hang on these two laws because He wanted us to not lose focus on what the Law and Prophets are pointing to. There is a world of difference.

Christianity is a life and cultural narrative that is designed to train us to love God and others. If you whittle it down to "love God and others", what you're doing is taking away what God has taught us that that looks like.


Response to Reason #3: Helping the Poor isn't a Priority

It...isn't?

I am always confounded by assertions like this. They are constantly made, yet never backed up.

Here's a list of the top 50 charity organizations in the U.S., according to Forbes.

Hm, how many of them are either Christian or at least were started by Christians?

The Roman Catholic Church, by far, is the largest charity organization in the world. (Yes, it's a Facebook post, but it's backed up by a variety of sources that are cited there.) Roman Catholicism is only a little more than HALF of Christianity, by the way. The other half does a heck of a lot, too.

Also...why the dichotomy of feeding/clothing the poor and teaching the poor? Are Bible studies at his church dismissing poor people, not allowing them in? If so, that's, well, a very big problem. But if not, I don't get why he thinks teaching the poor about Christ is not helping them. Sure, they need food and clothing and all. But they also, and more importantly, need Christ. Let's do both, not only one or the other.

Maybe he's stuck in a certain denomination that is not very charitable? Maybe he should join an historical, liturgical church; we tend to be bigger on the charity front.

I do note the irony in him complaining about how "utterly American our institution has become". I mean, the American pragmatism, American consumeristic mindset, and the fierce American individualism burst at the seams in this article.

Response to Reason #4: We're Tired of You Blaming the Culture

Here, the solutions are better than the generic complaint: yes, get rid of the "end times" "Left Behind" crap. Yes, teach us how we should be different from the culture...which implies that we think the culture is bad...which seems to go against what your original complaint in this was...okay...next one.

Response to Reason #5: The "You Can't Sit with Us" Affect (sic)

First, please learn the difference between "affect" and "effect" (I'm sorry, I'm a bit of a grammar Nazi; I bet I'll have a grammatical error or too in this article, now).

Once again, no statistics to back this up. Also, it seems to contradict his complaint about us having "too many Bible studies" and other forms of fellowship.

Are there churches like this? Sure. Are there churches not like this? Judging by his attitude, no.

Since there's not much else I can say in this particular response, I'll park on one repeated problem. The author keeps making assertions about how much the Church sucks, but doesn't ever really back it up with anything beyond personal feels.

One of the problems I've been seeing with certain parts of the Church, and this article is an example, is that we really LOVE to hate on the Church and simply assert all of these bad things. Is the Church perfect? No. But to act like the Church sits on her butt all day and does nothing is just foolish.Worse, it creates this false narrative about the Church, and that narrative "becomes true" because people keep saying it. It's like gossip; no, it IS gossip.

I'm sorry, but how you feel doesn't square with the facts. Maybe don't rely upon feelings as much, and try to see what the actual case is. If your local parish isn't doing anything for the poor, or is excluding people, then leave and find one that is. Or better yet: fill in that hole, somehow.

Response to Reason #6: Distrust and Misallocation of Resources


No statistics with this one, either! In fact, the only statistics I've seen so far are at the beginning. And guess what those statistics are on? The feels of Millennials.

And I'm sorry, fellow Millennials, but we seriously need to stop this.

Guess what? You feeling like the Church is thoroughly corrupt doesn't magically mean that the Church is thoroughly corrupt. I'm sorry, but your feelings don't dictate reality. I may feel like someone hates me; that doesn't mean they hate me. What it looks like is someone lying on the floor, complaining that no one cares that he's on the ground, and every time someone tries to come up and help him up, he refuses to move. Then, when that person leaves, he complains again that no one cares that he's on the ground.

So say it with me: "My feelings don't dictate reality." Say it again: "My feelings don't dictate reality."

One more time: "My feelings don't dictate reality."

Response to Reason #7: We Want to Be Mentored, not Preached At

Once again: we have that in liturgical, traditional churches. I'm an acolyte at my parish; I have an abbot as a mentor, as I am a third order Benedictine monk. I have five priests who mentor me. Seriously, go to a liturgical denomination if you don't find these in your church. Here, here's the website to my branch of Christianity: The Anglican Church in North America.

Also, if you see these holes in your church...fill them. Stop dichotomizing between "you" and "the Church". Are you not part of the Church? You are? Then do something about it. I've seen a few holes that need to be filled in my parish. Guess what? I'm filling them.

Response to Reason #8: We Want to Feel Valued

He says something very concerning, here:

"Millennials are told by this world from the second we wake up to the second we take a sleeping pill that we aren't good enough.

"We desperately need the church to tell us we are enough, exactly the way we are. No conditions or expectations.

"We need a church that sees us and believes in us, that cheers us on and encourages us to chase our big crazy dreams."

I REALLY want to be very snarky with this part. This, this sort of encapsulates everything that I hate about my generation. But I'll be nice.

You don't decide how you feel, but you decide how you react to how you feel. Sure, others can bring you down and lift you up, and they should do the latter and not the former. However, complaining that people aren't praising you enough is the epitome of self-centeredness.

Self-centeredness is a sin.

Here, let's read something that Jesus said about this; Luke 17:7-10:

Especially look at that last verse: "We are but unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty."

If you think you're good enough, guess what? You're not a Christian. The entire point of salvation presupposes that you're not good enough. You don't save people who don't need to be saved. That's why we need each other, and that's why we need the Church.

The most beautiful line I've ever heard about the Church is that it is, "One beggar telling another beggar where to find bread."

We aren't enough, ESPECIALLY the way we are. To say that we are is to say that we don't need to grow. It's to say that we don't need the Church. It's to say that we are perfect. If you're perfect, you don't need Church in the first place.

We aren't enough, but the point of the Church is to MAKE us "enough"; to conform us into the Image of Christ. God loves us too much to lie to us and say that we are enough. That, and God doesn't lie.

So, sorry, but the truth is that you and I are broken people. The truth is that God is healing us of our brokenness, and He does so THROUGH the Body of Christ. And what is the Body of Christ? Yup: The Church.

Until you understand that, you don't understand a thing about Christianity.

Response to Reason #9: We Want You to Talk to Us About Controversial Issues (Because No One is)

I actually have no significant disagreements with this one; I agree wholeheartedly that we need to talk about controversial issues, and I would add that we need to talk about more than that. We need to talk about theology and Church History and WHY we believe what we believe, as well.

Response to Reason #10: The Public Perception

I agree on this one, as well! And in fact, my whole frustration with this article is because of my agreement with this point.

You want a better public perception?

Stop making it sexy and hipster to hate on the Church.

Stop spreading unsubstantiated claims about how much the Church supposedly sucks.

Stop spreading lies about the Church.

Stop contradicting yourself on point #8.

Because the truth is that you don't seem to value the Church herself. You seem to think that the Church is only good if and when you perceive that she is doing everything to your perfect satisfaction.

I thought you were all about people being enough with "No conditions or expectations."? Sounds like you have "conditions and expectations" for the Church.

Response to Reason #11: Stop Talking About Us (Unless You're Actually Going to Do Something)

I largely agree: our words need to be backed up by actions. I do find it interesting that he complains about Millennials being stereotyped unfairly...when his entire article does that with the Church...

Response to Reason #12: You're Failing to Adapt

Sam Eaton (the author of the article I'm critiquing), I'm going to address the entirety of this one to you, personally.

I suppose it depends on what you mean by "adapt"; judging from your words under this point...I'm not the biggest fan. I mean, I think the reason that the Church is not growing as much as it should in the West is BECAUSE it's trying to be "relevant" and hip and all of that crap. I don't want my parish to cater to me, like some desperate girl. I come to the Church so that I can be changed, not her.

And here is the fundamental problem with the attitude in your article: the reasons given are largely selfish. The Church is not about the individual "you". The Church has a job: to expand the Kingdom of God. The Church's job is not to make you have fuzzy feels.

The Church is "irrelevant" and "approaching extinction"? I won't take that as hyperbole, because nothing in your article has suggested that it is.

Christianity is the largest religion out there, almost doubling the next largest. Christianity has more influence in this world than any other system or philosophy out there. And you think that the Church is facing extinction? You think the Church has lost influence?

Maybe certain denominations in certain parts of the US have lost influence, sure. But I think you've been projecting your non-denominational or Baptist or whatever-type of denominational experience onto the entirety of Christianity.

Regardless, my point is this: you serve others. Others serve you. But you serve others. That means not lying about and whining about how people aren't serving you enough, aren't reinforcing your ego, aren't telling you literally that you're perfect just the way you are, as this article that you wrote states is a necessity (see point #8).

Can it be frustrating to see people not helping out in the Church? Yes, but just to let you know: when you have a service geared towards getting butts in your seats, as is the predominant form of worship in Evangelical churches, you're going to attract people who are there only for the entertainment.

When people are only there for the entertainment...they're only there...for the entertainment.

When your primary goal is to attract people to your church, then those people you attract are primarily there because you persuaded them. When you cater to people, they tend to not work.

Maybe catering to Millennials isn't the best thing to do in a society where all we do is cater.

Maybe we need to call our generation to step up, and to take action. You've personally taken action; I see you run a suicide prevention ministry. Sincerely, praise God! We need more of that!

But your article works against that ministry when you pretend that that ministry (and others like it) doesn't exist.

Conclusion: 

I got a bit snarky at the end. That can happen; my apologies. Part of it is that I'm seeing where you are and remembering that I used to be like that as well. We're probably around the same age: we're both Millennials, at least. I've seen and been through this song and dance.

If we want to really do the Kingdom of God, then we need to stop spreading lies (intentionally or not) about the Church. We need to stop with this whole self-centered understanding of the Faith and the Church. We need to stop thinking that there is us as individuals, and the Church, and the two are separate things. We ARE the Church. That means that any failings you see are in part your fault, too. It's a team effort. Have you ever worked on a team? It can suck, sometimes. But we don't get to pick which team is the one that brings us into Communion with Christ. It's not "God, my Bible, and me under a tree". When you read the Scriptures, from Old Testament to New, ESPECIALLY in Paul, you see that unity is a major concern. That's why Paul talks about the dangers of back-biting and gossip. Those things seriously damage the Church, and your unsubstantiated complaints about the Church, based upon nothing more than a false narrative, only brings more people into the "I hate the Church" mindset. That mindset is based upon a narrative that is both untrue of and destructive to the Church.








Friday, November 18, 2016

So You Wanna Listen to Podcasts?

Heck, I have time! Let's get right to it: if you're looking for some great podcasts, I've got a few for you to check out!


These are the ones I primarily listen to right now (or at least want you to listen to right now!):


Anglican Studies

This is the first podcast I started listening to in my journey in Anglicanism, suggested to me by a friend who now runs a podcast himself (more on that later). If you hate horrible "dad" jokes...well, listen to it, anyway. It won't kill you (insert lame dad-joke, here). The podcast is a series of lectures from a very High Church Anglican; he goes over such subjects as the history of the Church, Sacramental theology, Apostolic Succession, and many other important aspects of a catholic Christian Faith. Please, please, PLEASE check this one out!

Click here for a hyperlink to Anglican Studies, or find it on your podcast app.


1928 Daily Morning Prayer:

This is the latest one I've discovered, and it might just be my favorite. I will tell you that one of the struggles I face is doing Morning Prayer by myself; I don't like doing it that way. This podcast lends a voice and reminds me that, while I am the only one in the room going through the Daily Office, I am not alone in doing so. Bonus: it uses the 1928 Book of Common Prayer! Yay!!!

Click here for a hyperlink to the 1928 Daily Morning Prayer, or find it on your podcast app.


Eucharist:

Remember that friend of mine who introduced me to the Anglican Studies podcast? Well, he's a priest in San Francisco now, at a congregation called Eucharist Church. Their podcast includes sermons as well as in-depth book studies; they also have a great lecture series on Benedictine spirituality (he and I are both Benedictines). He's an awesome, humble, and godly guy, and is one of my mentors. Check out the podcast, and if you're in the San Francisco area, check out the church!!!

Click here for a hyperlink to the Eucharist podcast, or find it on your podcast app (I gave the iTunes link because he loves Apple--I hate Apple, but that's okay).


Always Forward:

I'm looking at becoming an Anglican priest, which likely will involve me helping build at least one church in my life.This is a podcast for Anglicans who are looking at helping spread the Faith. What is so great about this podcast is that it helps point to the uniqueness of Anglicanism in its approach to Missiology and Ecclesiology (missions and the Church). If you've not grown up in an Anglican church, or know very little about how missions and Church work in Anglicanism, this is certainly the podcast for you! Check it out!

Click here for a hyperlink to Always Forward, or find it on your podcast app.


Rethinking Hell:

You may or may not know this: I'm an Annihilationist. I believe that the punishment for sin is not eternal torment, but rather eternal death. Confused? Concerned? This podcast will help you understand the reasoning behind Annihilationism (or Conditional Immortality) better. It's filled with critiques on sermons critiquing this understanding of Hell, interviews, debates, and a whole lot of information concerning the Scriptural and Historical defense for Annihilationism. If you're open-minded, you should check it out. If you're not open-minded, you should, well, I guess you should still check it out. It may or may not change your mind, but this podcast should at least help you see why I and others came to the conclusion that the wages of sin is death rather than torment.

Click here for a hyperlink to Rethinking Hell, or find it on your podcast app.


And that's all I have! Please, once again, check out these podcasts. I hope that they will help you in your Faith journey!!!




Friday, October 28, 2016

We Always Live How We Worship; We Always Look Like Who We Worship

I was walking back to my car from a bonfire last night, when I saw a friend of mine talking with some others. I decided to speak with her before I left; when I approached her, I found that she had been on the verge of crying.

Without getting into details, my friend was going through a point where she felt like she was worthless, like she was useless. Thankfully, we were able to help her out with that situation by talking to and praying over her.

Truth be told, the situation angered me greatly. Not because of her at all; she is a great Christian who genuinely cares about the things of God. No, I was realizing, as we were talking, how we as the Church in the U.S. have so totally screwed up our generation even more greatly than I'd thought before.

Our generation has been trained to look at our emotional state as reality, rather than as our perception of reality. One of the ways the Church has pushed that is through...yes, through the way we worship.

"Oh, NO!" I can hear the cry. "Another article on how screwed up worship is!"

This isn't a knock on modern worship in general. I encountered this same problem, the problem I will be addressing, in worship using "boring old hymns". I fully believe that one can have correct worship with modern music and modern instruments. The style is not the problem.

 This isn't a rejection of the emotions in worship: emotions are necessary for worship.

The problem is that our focus has been too much on the emotions of worship...sometimes to the exclusion of just about everything else. The way we worship today is often primarily focused upon how we feel: from the soft lighting to the slow dancing to the acoustic guitar playing softly in the background during the altar call, the emotions of the people always seem to be foremost. And once again (I have to repeat this because I know people will miss it if I don't), the emotions AREN'T BAD. They aren't bad even in worship: in fact, to repeat, they are NECESSARY.

But while protein is necessary for a good diet, if all I ever do is drink protein shakes I in fact have an incredibly UNhealthy diet.

If we are to worship correctly, we need to understand that we need to worship fully. A worship experience that focuses only on one aspect of worship is unhealthy. Now, please pay attention to this part, because it's incredibly important: I firmly believe that worship that focuses primarily, if not exclusively, on the emotions trains us to view our emotions as reality rather than perceptions of reality.

Please read that again; I'll wait.

What happens in such worship services? I can speak personally, and have heard similarly from many other Christians. We come to church in the morning, and we gather together for worship. The emphasis, our primary way of connecting to God, is through the emotions. Because of this, we are teaching ourselves that the best way to know the Ultimate Reality, to connect to the Ultimate Reality, is through how we feel; certainly, we are learning that it's the best indicator. The music puts us in a great mood as we sing praises to God, and our emotions soar. This gives us such a great feeling; we know we are close to God because we feel close to God.

But...what happens when we feel...not close to God? What happens when depression kicks in? We've taught ourselves, through this form of worship (though, to be fair, there are many things in the modern culture teaching this lesson as well) that our reality is known by our emotions, because we don't go beyond an emotional connection to God, the Ultimate Reality. So what happens when our emotions tell us that we are beyond help? That we are useless? That we have no reason to live?

See the problem?

I don't want to claim that fixing the inherent problems in our worship will solve all problems. I do want to claim that, at the least, fixing this problem will help plug up the negative contributions to our culture. At best, it will help a lot of people cease from viewing their emotions as the reality. Yes, churches throughout the U.S. have the opposite problem: almost no emotion in worship. I will deal with that as well. However, the trend is the emphasis of worship, often to the exclusion of everything else.

What we need is a balanced form of worship.

This is a call for us to worship fully, with the entirety of our being.

First, what are the two Great Commandments? The ones on which hang all of the Law and the Prophets?

According to Mark 12:29-31, the two most important Commandments are, "‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

I think that this is a good start. To love God is to worship God, and to worship God is to love God. Christ gave us four ways in which to worship the Father. Let's take a look at each one:


Heart!

This list is reminding me of that Bob-awful show, Captain Planet.
If you don't know it...consider yourself lucky.
We've got this one down pat. We know how to involve emotion in our worship. I will give us some of the advantages of emotions in worship.

What emotions do is color our perception of reality. When we worship, we should expect to feel joy: worship is what we are created to do! Worship should make us passionate.

This requires us to be honest with how we feel, and responsible with how we let others know how we feel. Having a more vocal emotional outburst is not an indicator that one has "more emotions" any more than an arrogant know-it-all who won't shut up means that he has more knowledge than a quiet person. All it demonstrates is that we may or may not know how to handle such things.

Also remember that, while emotions reflect our perception of reality, they are not reality. I may feel like I am no longer the son of my mother after disappointing her: that in no way means I have stopped being her son.

Soul! 

We often conflate this with the heart, forming emotions and will into one thing. Our worship, both in and out of the service, is to be a committed one. Everyone wants to worship God when He's handing out free candy and cars. Not so easy when He's leading you through the Valley of the Shadow of Death. The most critical problem with a worship based on emotions is that, when we don't feel like worshipping God...we don't. The commitment to worship God, the will to worship God (which, by the way, comes from the Spirit ultimately), brings us to worship even when we don't feel like it. Rarely does one "feel" like doing homework (unless you're a weirdo; oh good grief, I'm kidding, calm down); I can attest, as senioritis is really kicking in with this last semester of my undergrad. However, commitment, the will to do your responsibilities, pushes you to finish your homework.

Of course, if it's all mindless commitment and no emotion...that is not only personally unhealthy, it is a horrible example to others. We need to be committed and passionate about our love for God.

Mind!

We need to worship God with our minds. God gave us the ability to think, not only deeply but critically. If we are committed to God, and passionate about our commitment, good! But a mindless commitment, no matter how passionate, is not healthy; it's certainly not something that will attract others to Christ.

We need to be committed to an intellectual pursuit of God. We need to know about the God we claim to love. How horrible would it be if your significant other knew, well, almost nothing about you? Nothing about your background, your career, your desires, your accomplishments...and didn't care? We tend to call that infatuation, not love.

That means that we should know about theology. And no, I don't want to place a qualifier on that; I don't want to place a qualifier on any of these! I'm not going to state that, "Not everyone needs to know XYZ." I think that with all of these, we shouldn't settle for the lazy level. Go at each of these fully, including loving God with your intellect.


We also don't need to be arrogant in our knowledge. I've had to learn that, myself. Recall that an imbalance of these, like an imbalance in our diet, is not healthy for our Christian walk!

And by "imbalance", I don't mean that you can know "too much" about God, or "be too committed" to God or "be too passionate". Anything that appears to be "too much" of these things isn't actually too much, just focused incorrectly, probably always to the exclusion of one or more of others. It's only "too much" if it takes away from the other aspects of true love and worship. We can never love God too much; loving God in an imbalanced way is actually loving God less, because we are depriving God of one or more aspects of our lives and trying to compensate with another.

Strength! 

God has given each and every one of us talents to use for His Glory. If we are committed to Him, if we are passionate about our commitment, if we desire to know more about Him, then this will all lead to us finding out and using our talents for furthering the Kingdom of God.

Our worship should have real-world consequences, and for the good. Our love for God should be worked out in actions: in feeding the hungry, in clothing the naked, in telling others about the Faith. It all amounts to nothing if we don't have actions, as St. James states in his Epistle.

This connects the first Great Commandment with the second: that might be why it's the last on the list. We demonstrate our love for our neighbors by using our talents to further God's Kingdom. The two commandments are connected by the use, the action, of our love for God. We need this last one for a healthy balance.

It's All Connected

In fact, our worship is not worship unless we have a healthy balance of all four of these.

It isn't worship if we aren't committed.

It isn't worship if we aren't passionate.

It isn't worship if we are willingly ignorant.

And we don't have at least one of the other three if it doesn't result in using our God-given talents for His Kingdom. If we don't use our talents for God's Kingdom, we aren't following the second Commandment.

When we practice a balanced form of worship, we find that we are then slowly conformed more and more into the Image of His Son, Jesus Christ. This is why how we worship is so essential for our walk. Whether your service has incense or fog machines, whether your worship music puts people to sleep or keeps the neighbors up. whether you contribute to the Kingdom through 3rd world missions or youth lock-ins, a balanced worship makes you more and more like Christ.

I humbly submit that we as the Church need to get out of our comfort zones and pursue God fully in every aspect of our lives. We aren't called to half-ass our love for God. We are commanded to give nothing less than our all.









Thursday, October 27, 2016

For the Wages of Sin is Death, Not Torture: Why I Hold to Annihilationism (Part 1: Philosophy)






The subject of hell has been one of the most hated beliefs by those who aren't a part of Christianity, and is not generally well-loved within Christian circles, either. Why? Well, obviously, the thought that a loving God would torture people for all eternity is...confusing, at best. It has been tempered throughout the centuries, of course: Dante had those in hell tormenting themselves with their own sins, philosophers like William Lang Craig hold to it as mere isolation from God, etc.

For me, the concept of God eternally torturing people was too much to swallow. I found myself holding two very contradictory beliefs: that God loved everyone, and that God wanted to torture some of those people for all eternity, or at least was willing to. It was proving too much to handle; I had to study this subject, as I could not continue to hold these two opposing views in my head. This led me to an understanding that allowed me to hold together both the justice and goodness of God: annihilationism.

I will be doing a multi-part series on what led me to annihilationism, or conditionalism: the belief that God destroys the wicked to where they no longer exist. It makes sense to me to start with the philosophy of it rather than exclusively the Scriptural support. The reason is that we always bring philosophy to the Scriptures; it's impossible to do otherwise. This way, we can understand the lens we will be using when we do search Scripture to understand how it is supported. Otherwise, an article starting off the series with a bunch of passages will look like nothing more than proof texting. I want to point out that these points will be revisited in the next article, to show why they are important to Scripture; as well, I will allude to various passages in Scripture in this article, though not elaborate much on them.

The Reasons for Punishment

First, it is important to understand WHY God has to punish the wicked. It makes little to no sense for God to keep wicked people alive for all eternity. Why? If sin and sinners are the problem, then why not actually get rid of them? If, as Scripture says, ALL of creation is going to be renewed and there will be no more sin, then how can it be that God will, somewhere in creation, still have a place wholly dedicated to sin and sinners? If God's desire is to rid creation of sin, then it makes sense to wholly rid creation of sin by utterly destroying said sinners to the point of no life whatsoever, not merely keeping them alive enough to continue in sin.

Generally, an informed Christian might argue that sin against an infinite God requires infinite punishment. I don't necessarily disagree with that, which leads me to my second point: the nature of the punishment is the question, not the duration.

The Nature of Punishment

Conditionalists generally hold to the understanding that our position IS one of eternal punishment. We see that the punishment is the destruction of the wicked, not torture/isolation. While torture or isolation may be involved, that's not the punishment itself. So we don't say that Bob the Mass Murderer is tortured for 100 years in hell, then after the punishment of his torture he is puffed out of existence. No, the idea is that, however long the "pain" part of it lasts, or how severe, or if there even is any, the punishment itself is the death, the destruction. That death, that destruction called "the second death" in Revelation, will be forever, unlike the first death (the death we all face in this life).

Imagine a man sentenced to die. He may be placed in a jail cell for a few years, but that is not, in and of itself, his punishment. His punishment is death. Contrast that with a man sentenced to life without parole: that punishment is NOT a punishment in which someone is killed. That punishment is one in which the isolation itself is the punishment. When the annihilationist repeatedly sees passages indicating that the punishment for sin is death or destruction, (s)he sees that the punishment is really the actual death/destruction, the ending of life.

The Goals of Punishment

This obviously ties in with the first point. What is God's desire in punishing these people? To rid the world of wickedness. Passages like Romans 11, Revelation 22, and others seem to indicate that the whole of creation will be restored to perfection. This would indicate that there will be no more sin. To argue that the sinners will be in another part of creation (hell was created by God, if God created everything in creation) doesn't work: that's still a part of creation that is imperfect and, well, literally full of sin. The annihilationist holds that the punishment, destruction, has a goal: rid the world of evil. The traditional view doesn't rid the world of evil, only concentrates it into one spot. That's not the same thing.

These three points helped me in voicing my problems with the traditional view of hell; with them, I went into looking at what the Scriptures said about the subject. In the next article we will revisit these three points, developing their strength by pointing to Scriptural evidence of them, and pointing to passages that seem to speak outright of annihilationism as the punishment for sin. Expect to see the second article within a few weeks. Until then, RethinkingHell.com is a great resource for more information on annihilationism; specifically, this is one of the best podcasts in support of the topic. Hope you have a happy Halloween, and don't forget to be at Mass for All Saints Day!













Friday, October 14, 2016

Two Reasons Why This is a Short Update! (The Second One Will AMAZE You!) (Totally NOT Clickbait)!

Hey, there! So, I want to apologize for not writing as many articles as I should be; this is my last semester for my undergraduate, and senioritis has REALLY been kicking in. Yay! I get to graduate in December! I'm so happy!

As well, some developments have been happening at my parish, and my priest and the parish committee have tasked me with some new responsibilities because of that. Those responsibilities have been taking priority; to make up some of the time, I had to cut back on hours at work. My blog has been suffering similarly.

I do have some big news, but I may share that in a full article rather than a simple update. For now, I'll post about two bits of info that may interest you:

First, a good friend of mine, Jordan, is helping me manage the Barely Protestant Facebook page; he's an awesome guy who's story is somewhat similar to mine: we both have found ourselves on the journey to a more liturgical tradition. His blog is Crossing the Phoenix, and it's pretty thoughtful; I learn quite a bit from it.

The second thing I want to update you all on is that my next ACTUAL article will be on the very touchy subject of Annihilationism, or Conditional Immortality. It's a tough one to write, because there is SO MUCH to say. I'm seriously considering discussing it over about three or four articles. In fact, expect that.

Anyways, hope you all are doing well. Oh! One last thing! A Christian from my area of Tennessee has a movie review channel on Youtube. The channel, "Say Goodnight Kevin", is pretty thought provoking and hilarious. I've become a supporter, and our first shout-out was this past month on his "Vanished: Left Behind--the Next Generation" (queue Picard) video. I really appreciate Kevin's commitment to holding high standards for Christian media; it's something we desperately need.

Okay, I guess that's it for now; I hope to have my next actual article up by the end of October. Peace!

Friday, August 19, 2016

A Response to "A Biblical Case for Trump" by LastChanceAmerica





From about 2011-2014, I wasn't closely paying attention to the political world. At that point in life, I was transitioning from super-political neo-con to super-a-political semi-peacenik. With the events of this past year or so, I find myself reluctantly talking about politics again. Bleh.

 I recently came across this interesting article the other day, and thought that I should respond to it. It was addressing me, along with all of the other #NeverTrumpers who, true to our name, will never vote for Trump.

I recognize that I'm writing a piece that will primarily be perceived as political, when I own a blog called Barely Protestant rather than "Barely Republican". However, I'm choosing to respond specifically to this article for a reason; it comes from a Christian, but more importantly, from an Evangelical. This will help highlight the theological problems I see in a lot of Evangelical circles today.

Her article starts off by assuming that I, the reader (if I'm in that 90%, that is), am going to assume that she is an ignorant, biblically illiterate redneck when she is in fact not; also, my reason for reading her article is to mock her.  Not the best way to start an article, probably, but I'm no expert at this stuff either.

She then continues by stating that she, apparently, "fits" the description of a #NeverTrumper. I'm not sure about that; I don't know of any definition of a #NeverTrumper besides "I will never vote for Trump". Along with that are claims that she actually WANTS to be a #NeverTrumper because it "sounds so principled, so brave" (emphasis hers)--why do I get the feeling that I'm being talked down to like a little child?

No matter; anyway, she then determines that she HAS to vote for Trump, because...well, let's take a look:

We find that Luke 9:49-50 is the passage she starts off with in her defense of the necessity of voting for Trump. This is the passage in which the Disciples complain about some man they don't know who is casting out demons. Jesus responds by saying to leave that man alone, because if he isn't against you he is with you. Mrs. LastChanceAmerica parallels this with Trump today.

Okay, there are a few problems with this parallel...

This is a story that is, specifically, about a man doing a spiritual act (casting out demons) in the Name of Jesus, but is not one of the Disciples. What...does that have in common with Donald Trump? Donald Trump is not running to do Kingdom work for the Church. Donald Trump is running for a secular office. Ironically, Mrs. LCA makes the argument that this is...not applicable to ecclesiastical offices? More likely, she's saying that this story is about a spiritual action, but can also be applied to a secular situation.

Eh...maybe? I mean, if this secular situation even remotely resembled that. In the story, the unnamed man is successfully casting out demons in the Name of Jesus. We have NO indication that he is some heretic; the one "problem" the Disciples have is that...he's not one of the Twelve. Literally. That's the problem for them. This is also immediately after they had fought among themselves over who was the greatest (vs. 46-48). Maybe these passages, along with quite a few in the rest of the Gospels, are indicating that pride was a major problem for the Disciples?

And if Jesus' words were something to the extent of "compromise your principles as much as you can as long as one, undefined principle is semi-kept" (she never does actually specify exactly what her argument using Luke 9:49-50 is), then why did Jesus turn people away not ten verses later? Jesus doesn't compromise at all in verses 57-62:

"Hey, Jesus, I want to follow You; just let me bury my father, first."


"Sure thing! After all, the dead can't bury the dead, ya know!"

Oh wait; that--that's not what Jesus said. No; in fact, Jesus told the guy to, well, let the dead bury the dead...was this guy against Jesus or something? Because he certainly seems to be for Him.

And here is the problem with modern reading of Scripture: it's treated as the world's largest collection of fortune cookie, er, fortunes that one can just pick randomly from and apply to anything that might vaguely be related to it. In other words, context (both literary and historical) don't really matter in modern day Evangelicalism; it just needs to sound vaguely like it might work.

Also, the article uses arguments that seem to assume that Trump is, even politically, on our side. No, Trump is, politically, not on our side; well, at least not on my side. He does not hold my political values. I am not for the targeting of innocents in war.

We should stop right there for one moment, because people don't seem to get the fact that Trump is for the targeting (that means intentionally aiming at--like, with intention) and killing (that means ending a life--as in, what we pro-lifers are against doing) of INNOCENT PEOPLE.

Innocent. People.

I mean, that alone should be enough to say, "Nope! No thanks! Next option!"

We are all pro-life here, right? I mean, plenty of pro-lifers are for killing people who are guilty of certain crimes; that's an obvious area of disagreement among Christians ourselves. However, NONE of us should be for the idea of KILLING INNOCENT PEOPLE.

But I'll go on: Trump has been pro-choice his whole life...until he magically saw the light just in time to run for president.

Does this video sound like someone who is pro-life out of conviction, or pro-life out of political maneuvering?

                           

Trump is STILL in favor of the government financially supporting Planned Parenthood.

Trump has been on every possible part of the spectrum of illegal immigration.

Trump is very much for eminent domain being used to give land to private companies, even to this day.

Here, this is a great video showing Trump in his own words:



I mean, at best I don't know what this guy will do once he's in office. I genuinely believe he is a liberal to this day, no different from Hillary Clinton. I see no difference between the two.

So no: far from seeing Trump casting out demons, I see Trump claiming that he one time cast a genie out of a bottle and it granted him three wishes: unbelievable, and irrelevant even if it were true.

She moves on from that sort-of argument into, well, basically shaming us for...mocking the Christian leaders on his faith advisory committee? I...don't recall mocking, well, most of them (more on that in a second).

Well, if we are going to insert personal experience of such mocking and cruelty from #NeverTrumpers...may we please talk about the reputation of actual Trump supporters, as well? Please don't pretend, Mrs. MakeAmericaGreatAgain, that Trump supporters are some sort of nice, courteous, thoughtful group of voters who absolutely NEVER have violent tendencies; I mean, if you're going to be "appalled", then you should at least indicate your appallment of Trump supporters, as well. Or do you simply expect it from them?

As for those on the advisory committee thing...hm. Well, I appreciate Dr. Dobson for his ministry, despite quite a few disagreements with him on more than a few issues. Kirk Cameron? I'm sorry, but I've never respected him as a Christian leader; I certainly don't consider him one (a leader, that is). And no, I've never paid a dime to see him, ever. I'm sure his intentions are good, but I think his brand of Christianity hurts the Faith and the Kingdom FAR more than any help it may possibly have.

Those are the only two names she mentioned on this committee. I looked up the list according to Christianity Today; while I don't know most of the names on it, I am familiar with a few.

I know Paula White, the Prosperity (false) gospel preacherette who was "innapropriate" with Benny Hinn after her divorce with her husband...while being investigated by the US Senate for fraud.

I know the Copelands, another power-couple of Prosperity preaching involved in scandals and stealing from the poor to give to themselves.

So I see why at least those three are on Trump's faith advisory committee.

Jerry Falwell, jr.? I'm sorry, but...no. Not him; not his father. Not at all.

To be honest, I'm sure the committee does have a significant number of good and godly people; after all, it does contain people who actually don't and won't vote for Trump. His advisory board isn't really indicative of much, if he's not going to actually take it to heart (aside from the financial advice of Paula and the Copelands, I'm sure; Trump might even hit on Paula, and that's not a joke, given his love of sleeping around).

She goes on to say that, "This is the point in which many of you will be tempted to stop reading." Well, she at least got that right; but I read on, anyway.

She argues that a vote for anyone other than Trump...is a vote for Hillary Clinton.

Seriously.

No, not only that; she claims that people who argue that a vote for someone other than Trump or Hillary is a vote for someone other than Trump or Hillary are "pad(ding) your argument with mathematical or philosophical meanderings".


Wait--what?

This is where it gets upsetting to me.

So, let me get this straight...Bob here decides he will vote for Gary Johnson, because he can't vote for either Trump or Hillary. Bob believes a vote for Gary Johnson is, well, a vote for Gary Johnson. Not too much math and philosophy in that, is there? I mean, I COULD break it down into a mathematical formula:

A Vote for Gary Johnson=A Vote for Gary Johnson

Here, let's try that formula on another candidate.

A Vote for Jill Stein=A Vote for Jill Stein

By George, it works! That's some heavy mathematical and philosophical meandering, there, for sure, but gee golly! that equation works!

She claims she's not trying to insult our intelligence, but this argument can only be such. She is literally arguing that the people who DO believe that a vote for their candidate is a vote for their candidate are "pad(ding) your argument with mathematical or philosophical meanderings". On the other hand, the people who are arguing that a vote for the person you vote for is ACTUALLY a vote for someone you DIDN'T vote for...is the "common sense" (and apparently NON-mathematical/philosophical) conclusion.

I'm sorry, but I am definitely going to take that as an insult to my intelligence.

Oh, and by the way, if Trump loses, does that mean that everyone who voted for him in the primaries actually voted for Hillary, since he was the only candidate who consistently showed that he would lose against her?

It's hard to take this article seriously after that argument, but she asked at the beginning that I read through it all with an open heart. So here I go; next point:

She talks about a vote for no one still being a vote for Hillary...which has already been addressed. She then goes on to state that our other possible objection would be that "a vote for the lesser of two evils is still a vote for evil", and calls that statement a "fallacious foundation".

She is, apparently, being serious, here. Apparently, her thought is that no matter what I do I will be voting for evil. I mean, according to her totally NOT "mathematical and philosophical meanderings" (sarcasm, there), I guess so? But once again...choosing to vote for someone who is not Trump or Clinton is choosing to vote for someone who is not Trump or Clinton.

Let me apply this alleged logic to a Biblical story: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. So, they had to either sing the bunny song--sorry, too much VeggieTales--worship the statue or burn in the furnace. They cast their ballots against worshipping the statue, so that MUST mean they voted for the furnace, meaning they were attempting SUICIDE! Right? Right?

Or, they stuck to their principles; didn't give in. Ya know, what we Christians are CALLED to do.

"Well, I could PRETEND to deny Christ so as to not be beheaded; that'll mean I get to continue preaching the Gospel and reaching more people!" #ThingsSaintPaulNeverSaid

"Well, I could sleep with Potipher's Wife, and then slowly bring her to a saving knowledge of God!" #ThingsJosephNeverSaid

I'm sorry, but this is compromising of my morals, because I long ago determined that I would not vote for someone of morally corrupt character. I cannot vote for Trump or Clinton.

I'm growing more frustrated with each passing sentence of this article.

And here is where I find another problem within Evangelicalism; her arguments are all hinging on the idea that Christianity will be destroyed if Hillary in elected. Well, she certainly seems to imply that with words like, "We can be CERTAIN, however, that Hillary will do her best to destroy what little sense of decency we have left".

No, ma'am; the Church's existence does not hinge upon who is elected the next president of the United States.

Let me put this in perspective for you: you know the Roman Empire, right? That thing that ruled the entire Mediterranean World? That powerful force of human construction, that for centuries tried to stamp out Christianity?

Yeah, that Empire? Doesn't exist anymore.

You know that cult following the teachings of some crazed Jewish Rabbi, Who's followers swore to their torturous deaths that He physically rose from the dead? That one that was mostly started among those Jewish rabble-rousers and poor people?

Yeah...it's the largest religion in the world today, almost doubling the size of the second largest.

Something tells me little old Hillary isn't going to magically beat God and stamp out the Faith.

But that's the problem: because many modern Evangelicals don't have a theology of the Church--or at least a good theology of the Church--they need an institution that will set up the Kingdom; hence, the Government. The Government is now the Church. Need to rid the nation of abortion? Laws will magically fix that! Need to condemn homosexual acts? Laws will do that! Need to promote the family? Laws! Laws! Laws!

Now, I'm not against laws, themselves; they can certainly be useful. However, if my hope is to end abortion, my Faith should not be placed in laws. If my hope is to end homosexual acts, my Faith should not be placed upon laws. It is the job of the Church to promote the teachings of Christ and the Apostles, NOT Caesar's job.

That's why, I submit, so many Evangelicals are willing to compromise in this election: so many reject the existence of the Church as THE Institution upon which the Kingdom of God stands, opting instead for the US to be that institution. It is nothing less than idolatry.

In bold, she claims that we will have lost our right to act as a martyr if we don't vote for Trump when Hillary Clinton supposedly takes away our free speech rights.

Ma'am, I do not think you know what a martyr is. I mean, no. If a man in the Early Church was baptized publicly, at his own request, and was then arrested and killed for being a Christian, the fact that he chose to be publicly baptized does not mean that he loses his martyr status.

And you're hinging on a pretty significant "if", there; the first amendment does exist, and does protect our free speech. But even if Justices decide that speech isn't covered under the first amendment, despite the fact that it explicitly is covered, there are systems in place to take care of that. We can, for instance, impeach Justices.

But regardless of that, no; you do not lose your martyrdom status if you refuse to compromise your principles, which then causes you to suffer for the Faith.

This sentence is one of the most concerning ones in her whole article: "Whether we like it or not, America is drowning and the Trump boat, though less than desirable, is the only viable option for rescue we have to keep us afloat for the time being."

Okay, whoa whoa whoa, stop. Just. Stop.

If this were merely some article about why someone should vote for Trump, that would be one thing. This is a pastor's wife who claims to be speaking as a Christian, to other Christians, as to what the BIBLICAL case is for voting for Trump. In this one sentence, she reveals some very scary ideas in her theology:

Apparently, we Christians must rely upon the Donald in order to "keep us afloat". Keep us...as Christians? That's certainly what she seems to be arguing, given the rest of her article. So...the Church, again, is not that Boat? Christ is not that Boat? Donald Trump is that boat? Donald Trump.

This woman's hope is not in Christ, is not in the Institution established by Christ. This woman's hope, this woman's faith, is in the US, and in Donald Trump.

The worship of America in place of the worship of God.


Is that harsh? Of course it is, but I sincerely can't see any other option here. This is literal faith in our country over Faith in God. And her quickly devolving article continues to demonstrate that.

She then delves into this argument that, honestly, really confuses me. She complains that we lose our "right to complain" about abortion, religious freedoms being taken away, and guns being confiscated, if we don't vote for Trump.

Aside from the very obvious fear-mongering...no, just no. Her rationale is that, apparently, our only power is to vote for who is president. That's our one and only power. I don't exactly remember "voting for Donald Trump" as being one of the Gifts of the Spirit.

This IS still a "Christian talking to Christians" article, right?

She then adds that her "conscience is clear", and states that her intent was not to bully. I don't consider it bullying nearly so much as I consider it fear-mongering and placing Trump and the US as gods.


In short, this article really exposes the problem that there are Evangelicals--and a significant number of them, at that--who have placed the United States Government within their ecclesiology, and in so doing have kicked out the Church. When you do that, you make the Government your place of worship, and its leaders your pastors...and eventually gods.





Wednesday, April 20, 2016

For A Few Reasons: Why I'm Anglican and Not Roman Catholic

Ever since I started up my Barely Protestant page on Facebook, I've received the BIG question perhaps a dozen times. "Why aren't you (Roman) Catholic?" It's a fair question, given how "barely" I am a Protestant; at least from typical American Christianity's standpoint. From a Roman Catholic's perspective, I can certainly see why so many scratch their heads and wonder why someone would go "Catholic-lite", as I've heard so many say. So I'm going to give some reasons why I ultimately did not become Roman Catholic, and became Anglican instead.

I do want to not only point out but stress that I absolutely LOVE Roman Catholicism. I was raised in a home where we would pray for "Grandpa and Papa (the latter being my Cuban grandfather) to get saved", because they were Roman Catholic; my little brother even once prayed that during a lunch we had with Papa! The upbringing I had involved churches that rejected Roman Catholicism--and Lutheranism, and Methodism, and Presbyterianism, Anglicanism, and even to some extent Southern Baptists--as "non-Christians", or at best "carnal Christians"; however, Roman Catholicism was by far the LEAST Christian. Anyone Roman Catholic "worships Mary", "worships the Pope (who's of course the Anti-Christ)", and "secretly wants to kill all Protestants and Independent Fundamental Baptists (thanks, Chick Tracts)".


Yes, Jack Chick: I so fear for my life every time I go into a Roman Catholic church or talk to one of my Roman Catholic friends. Because of all of the slaughtering those Roman Catholics do, right after they finish helping out in the soup kitchens and protesting against capital punishment.

Needless to say, my study of theology, Church History, Scripture, etc. has led me to believe that Roman Catholics are genuinely my full brothers and sisters in Christ. Not only that, but they are part of the true, one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. Nevertheless, I have somewhat against them. These are some of the reasons why:


Roman Catholicism's Doctrine of Papal Infallibility

First off, I want to emphasize that I do NOT think of Papal Infallibility as "everything the Pope says is infallible" or "Popes make no doctrinal errors" or anything like that. I understand that for an utterance of a Pope to be considered infallible, many criteria need to be reached. I also understand that even Roman Catholic apologists like Dr. Robert Sungenis understand that Popes can even be heretics. The understanding of Papal Infallibility is that the Pope can pronounce certain statements of Faith or Morals as infallible, not that every statement made is such.

The problem with Papal Infallibility is that it's not historical (you will see this problem pop up continually in this article). It just isn't. There are a few examples given by many Roman Catholics; Early Church Fathers, for instance, who speak very highly of the Bishop of Rome. However, speaking highly of a Pope is not evidence for Papal Infallibility.

The Eastern Churches reject it, Protestants reject it, and this was never decided ecumenically. Rome can poo-poo the Protestant rejection of Papal Infallibility (after all, we Protestants allegedly don't have valid Apostolic Succession--more on that another time), but can't ignore that the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Churches reject such a claim, and have never held to it. If Rome is serious about recommunion with the East (and Protestantism, for that matter), something must be done concerning Papal Infallibility.

Roman Catholicism's Stance Concerning the Eucharist (Transubstantiation) and Other, Differing Views

(Warning! This one is a bit technical and may be hard to understand. While I encourage you to read it, I also want to point out that a perhaps-over-simplified summary is at the end of this section in case you try to read this entire section and don't get it.)

First off, I want to point some things out: I hold to what is known as "Real Presence" concerning the Bread and Wine in the Eucharist. With "Real Presence", one maintains that the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ really and truly is present in the Eucharist.

Compare that to the concept of Transubstantiation, where the "accidents" of the bread and wine (what we detect with our senses) remain while the "substances" (what actually makes bread and wine, well, bread and wine--this is all Aristotelian metaphysics; it can be hard to understand) are replaced with the Body and Blood of Christ. That way, it is really and truly the Body and Blood of Christ and is no longer really and truly bread and wine.

How do these differ from one another? one might ask. Well, Transubstantiation is a specific understanding of Real Presence. It doesn't sound too different at all, so we shouldn't really have problems with it, right? Wrong.

The first problem with Transubstantiation is that it tries to explain a mystery. The word Sacrament, which is what the Eucharist is, means "mystery". We shouldn't be trying to explain how these mysteries work. That's not the point of the Sacraments. One of my favorite lines about Roman Catholicism and Transubstantiation is from a Roman Catholic priest: "There are three things you need to know about Roman Catholicism's view concerning the Eucharist: first, it's a mystery and can't be explained; second, we've explained it; third, we've anathematized anyone who believes differently from it (more on that last point in a bit)."

The second problem is that it simply isn't historical. While it is abundantly clear that the Church has always maintained the understanding of Real Presence concerning the Eucharist since the very beginning, that does not mean that they held to Transubstantiation. One specific point that distinguishes Transubstantiation from most other views that would fit under Real Presence is that the bread and wine's substances are no longer there, but replaced with the substance of the Body and Blood of Christ. That is, as far as I know, not taught anywhere in the Ante-Nicene Fathers (the Church Fathers who lived and wrote before the Council of Nicaea, A.D. 325); it's certainly not the consensus opinion, based upon the historical records we have today.

The third problem is that this wasn't decided ecumenically (that problem pops up a few times as well, here). Roman Catholicism has had twenty-one councils that are considered "ecumenical" by them. The generally accepted number of actual ecumenical councils is seven, before the 1054 Schism between East and West. Transubstantiation was first briefly discussed in the Fourth Lateran Council (A.D. 1215), and then formally dogmatized in the Council of Trent (A.D. 1545-1563) with anathemas placed upon anyone who would hold to a different view (more on that). Both of these Councils are only considered ecumenical by Roman Catholics; the Eastern Churches were not a part of it.

(Sidenote: technically there have only been two TRULY ecumenical councils, since the third one involved the first major schism within the Church; this schism led to what is now known as the Assyrian Church of the East and its heretical Nestorianism. That discussion is, perhaps, for another time.)

The fourth and fifth problems are that Transubstantiation denies that the bread and wine are substantially still there, and that all who disagree with Transubstantiation are anathematized. As the Council of Trent notes in the thirteenth session, chapter VIII, Canon II:

"If anyone saith, that, in the sacred and holy Sacrament of the Eucharist, the substance of the bread and wine remains conjointly with the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, and denieth that wonderful and singular conversion of the whole substance of the bread into the Body, and of the whole substance of the wine into the Blood--the species (or "accidents") Only of the bread and wine remaining--which conversion indeed the Catholic Church most aptly calls Transubstantiation; let him be anathema."

In other words, if someone holds to it being both bread and wine and Body and Blood, that person is anathema according to the Council of Trent. That means Anglo-Catholics, and pretty much all of the Churches of the East, are anathematized by the Council of Trent.

There is significant precedent to refer to it as both. St. Paul refers to it as both (1 Corinthians 10:16), and a multitude of Early Church Fathers as well. Plus an argument can be made that the position of Transubstantiation can be considered a nod to monophysitism, the belief that Jesus' Divine Nature took over the Human Nature. Why? Because it has the Divine Body and Blood swallowing and taking over the mundane bread and wine, rather than co-existing with it. Do I think that Transubstantiation states as much? Certainly not intentionally; however, I think it is the logical conclusion.

Sorry; that was a rather long and really technical problem. Bottom line is that Transubstantiation is in multiple ways a doctrine that is theologically insufficient and wrong concerning the Eucharist. It was never decided upon ecumenically, and I can't be a Roman Catholic when the view is not only dogmatized, but also to the anathema of all who disagree.


Forced Celibacy for the Priesthood

I want to be married and have kids. I also want to be a priest. As Scripture says, it is a good thing to desire a wife. As well, there are many passages that make it obviously clear that not only priests (or "elders", as Scripture calls them) but Bishops are allowed to be married. St. Peter himself was married (here's another passage claiming so). The Eastern Churches allow married men to become priests (though, admittedly, not the Bishops), and the Anglican Communion allows all Holy Orders to be married. There is no good reason to force two of the three Holy Orders to refrain from marriage, as a whole. This was pushed in the 11th century in part for financial reasons by Pope Gregory VII (clergy were giving away Church property to their children). Prior to the Second Lateran Council in A.D. 1139, no Ecumenical (even by Rome's standards) Council dictated that clergy remain celibate. The First Council of Nicaea in A.D. 325 only forbids women not related to the clergy from living with them, for obvious reasons. There were many married clergy in the first 1,000 years of Church History. This is an unnecessary restriction upon Holy Orders.


Beliefs Concerning the Blessed Virgin

I love the Blessed Virgin. I have prayed the Rosary, and have asked for her (as well as all of the Saints) to pray for me. I am fine with the concepts of her ever-virginity, and even her bodily assumption. I think that we as Protestant pay FAR too little attention to the Saints, including her.

However, I cannot hold to her Immaculate Conception (that is, that she herself was conceived without sin); I certainly cannot hold to it as a dogmatic belief to the anathema of one's soul.

As well, while I have no problem with the concept of her bodily assumption, I cannot hold to it as a dogma, of which one is anathema for rejecting.

As well, I am one of those Protestants who thinks that veneration of the Blessed Virgin has gone too far in many parts of the Roman Catholic Church. The same can be said by me concerning the Churches of the East.


Conclusion

These are some of the major reasons I am not, and do not ever plan to be, Roman Catholic. I find none of these problems in the Anglican Communion. Is the Anglican Communion perfect? Certainly not. John Shelby Spong, Katherine Jefferts Schori, Gene Robinson, and plenty of others have done so much damage to the Communion. However, the only one of those three that could not happen in Roman Catholicism is Schori on account of her being female, and a male version of her would be just as bad (I am against female Bishops and Priests, by the way); the problem of bad clergy is everywhere. Anglicanism isn't perfect, but its flaws (the allowance of female Bishops and Priests, for one) can be dealt with. I am not required to allow female Bishops or Priests in my diocese, as an Anglican clergyman. I am required to hold to the doctrines I reject, as a Roman Catholic clergyman.

Once again, I find Roman Catholicism to be a beautiful expression of the Faith, and consider Roman Catholics to be my brothers and sisters in Christ. Please sense my heart in this; this is not to attack, but rather to explain what problems I have and why I ultimately decided to remain, well, Barely Protestant.



Hey there! I'm looking at finishing my undergrad this summer (June-July 2016) by taking my last two classes in the U.K. and Ireland for a month and a half. I've never been there before, and it would be a really great opportunity to see the homeland of the Anglican Communion, of which I am a part and prayerfully considering to become a priest in. However, I'm needing some more funds for the trip and would greatly appreciate your help. I've set up a GoFundMe page, so if you would, I'd appreciate you taking a look at it. Just FYI, the GoFundMe page takes 25% of the donation you give me; if you know me personally, it'd be best to just contact me and mail or give me a check. Either way, I seriously appreciate you taking the time to read my articles; I hope they've helped you. Please keep me in your prayers, as I'm transitioning in life and about ready to start the process to be examined for the Anglican clergy. God bless you all!














Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Ten Magical Steps to Win the Evangelical Vote in an Election

Few of you probably know that in my first two years of college I actually wanted to go into politics. I was planning on getting a prelaw degree, and moving on to whatever law school would take me, and work my way to eventually become a Senator. Thank God I was called out of that and received a heart-change to instead go into ministry.

However, if I ever change my mind and decide to run for office, this year has given me plenty of lessons to tuck away for that. I mean, Donald Trump keeps winning all of these Evangelical voters; obviously, he must be a man of God!

I decided to set up a list of ten points I should emulate in order to win the Evangelical vote in a Presidential Primary. These points hardly need any elaboration:

1) Have multiple affairs.

2) Use nasty, sexist terms in referring to women who disagree with me.

3) Boast about taking advantage of corrupt politicians for my own financial gain.

4) Be pro-partial birth abortion.

5) Mock disabled people's disabilities when they disagree with me.

6) Demean the service of a war hero who was tortured for years in Vietnam, saying, "He's not a war hero; he got caught. I like people who don't get caught".

7) Tell a group of Christians that I've never asked God to forgive me (and this is after all of those affairs).

8) Advocate for targeting the families of terrorists.

9) Advocate for Eminent Domain for private businesses; where private businesses can use the government to take your property by force in order to build their strip clubs and casinos.

10) Make millions in said strip clubs and casinos.


I mean, this stuff is straight out of the Gospels, am I right? When I ask, "What Would Jesus Do", I immediately think of at least three of these ten things!

Thank you, Evangelicals, for voting for such a godly, respectable, conservative man like Donald Trump. You've given me hope for a bright, Spirit-led future for the Church in these United States.

(In case you're a typical Trump supporter, this is called sarcasm.)

Hey there! I'm looking at finishing my undergrad this summer (May-July 2016) by taking my last two classes in the U.K. and Ireland for a month and a half. I've never been there before, and it would be a really great opportunity to see the homeland of the Anglican Communion, of which I am a part and prayerfully considering to become a priest in. However, I'm needing some more funds for the trip and would greatly appreciate your help. I've set up a GoFundMe page, so if you would, I'd appreciate you taking a look at it. Just FYI, the GoFundMe page takes 25% of the donation you give me; if you know me personally, it'd be best to just contact me and mail or give me a check. Either way, I seriously appreciate you taking the time to read my articles; I hope they've helped you. Please keep me in your prayers, as I'm transitioning in life and about ready to start the process to be examined for the Anglican clergy. God bless you all! 

https://www.gofundme.com/5cb7w4

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Four Things in the Early Church You Won't Find in Your Average Non-Denominational Church

One of the major focuses this generation has is a desire to be "authentic" or "genuine" or "real", especially in matters of faith. The desire for true religion, although many of these people may prefer the term "spirituality" to "religion", is most certainly a noble one; we all should strive for an authentic expression of our Faith. Many times, this desire is conjoined with the proclamation of going "back to the Scriptures" and "back to the Early Church".

I see so much good in the non-denominational movement: their love for ministering to the poor, their passion for overseas missions; and no, not simply to Paris or Venice for "missions trips" that are actually just paid vacations that score brownie points. We are talking going to third world countries to spread the love of God to the uttermost parts of the earth--all of these things and more make me glad to call them my brothers and sisters in the Faith.

Unfortunately, in many of these churches I see a very different form of theology and worship from that of the Early Church. The differences aren't necessarily game-changers--these aren't all essentials to the Faith--but they certainly aren't the way that the Early Church ran things. If your desire is to emulate them, then pay heed to these four particular differences from that nice mega-church down the road with the coffee shop in the auditorium and the hipsters vaping outside between services...


1) The Early Church was Hierarchical.


When the Apostles were still alive, they led the Church and spread it throughout the Roman empire. The epistles we have in Scripture are almost all responses to questions sent to the Apostles from local churches; the local churches were asking them, because these men were their leaders.

After the death of the Apostles, the Bishops took their role as leaders of various parts of the Church. The Bishops were placed in charge of multiple church homes, and while they were not given the same amount of power and authority as the Apostles, they were still considered the leaders of the Church.

St. Ignatius of Antioch was one such Bishop; trained by St. John the Evangelist, author of five books of the New Testament; it might be worth something to hear what he had to say about the office of Bishop:

"It is fitting, then, not only to be called Christians, but to be so in reality. For it is not the being called so, but the being really so, that renders a man blessed. To those who indeed talk of the Bishop, but do all things without him, will He who is the true and first Bishop, and the only High Priest by nature, declare, 'Why call ye Me Lord, and do not the things which I say?' (Luke 6:46). For such persons seem to me not possessed of a good conscience, but to be simply dissemblers and hypocrites."--Epistle of St. Ignatius to the Magnesians, chapter 4 (longer version)

Or, if you're one of the more skeptical types, the shorter version of the same passage along with the previous chapter:

"Now it becomes you also not to treat your Bishop too familiarly on the account of his youth (literally, "to use the age of your Bishop") but to yield him all reverence, having respect to the Power of God the Father, as I have known even holy presbyters (local pastors) do, not judging rashly, from the manifest youthful appearance (of their Bishop), but as being themselves prudent in God, submitting  to him, or rather not to him, but to the Father of Jesus Christ, the Bishop of us all. It is therefore fitting that you should, after no hypocritical fashion, obey (your Bishop) in honour of Him Who has willed us (so to do), since he that does not so deceives not (by such conduct) the Bishop that is visible, but seeks to mock Him that is invisible. And all such conduct has reference not to man, but to God, Who knows all secrets.

"It is fitting, then, not only to be called Christians, but to be so in reality: as some indeed hive one the title of Bishop, but do all things without him. Now such persons seem to me to be not possessed of a good conscience, seeing they are not steadfastly gathered together according to the commandment."
--Epistle of St. Ignatius to the Magnesians, chapters 3-4 (shorter version)

St. Ignatius of Antioch wrote this and other letters while on his way to his martyrdom in Rome, in A.D. 107. Some people point to St. Clement's First Epistle to the Corinthians (likely his only extant epistle to the Corinthians) as a counter to the claim that the Christians after the Apostles had a Bishop ruling over multiple local churches, but that is mainly an argument from silence. Even if that were granted, it is incredibly difficult to argue against a hierarchical structure within the vast majority of Christianity by the end of the 2nd century.

What does this mean, in laymen's terms? It means that for most of the Early Church, each local church community was under the authority of a regional leader. That means that if your non-denominational church named "The Impact" or "Exciting New Awesome Christ Follower Community Center Place" were transported back in time to the 2nd century, the Christians surrounding you would expect you to be under the authority of the region's Bishop...who'd hopefully then make you change your church's hideously annoying name.


2) The Early Church Used the Deuterocanon (a.k.a, "The Apocrypha").



GASP!!!! OH NO!!!!!! The Apocrypha is that there Devil's book collection!!!!!

...or, that's what I was told, growing up.

Friends don't let friends believe what's written in Chick Tracts.

If the Deuterocanon (that's the better name for it than "Apocrypha") is Satanic, or even just not a good collection of writings helpful for the Church, then why did...

The Didache (second half of the 1st century)
St. Clement of Rome (A.D. 95)
St. Ignatius of Antioch (A.D. 107)
St. Polycarp of Smyrna (first half of the 2nd century)
St. Irenaeus of Lyons (A.D. 180)
St. Clement of Alexandria (mid 2nd-early 3rd centuries)
Tertullian (mid 2nd-early 3rd centuries)
St. Hippolytus of Rome (late 2nd-early 3rd centuries)
St. Cyprian of Carthage (early 3rd century)

 and a whole host of other Early Church Fathers use it, even authoritatively?

Even more important; the version of the Old Testament overwhelmingly used by the writers of the New Testament was the version of the Old Testament that utilized deuterocanonical books. The vast majority of Old Testament quotes in the New Testament are from the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament. In fact, when the Septuagint and what becomes known as the Masoretic text (sorry if I'm nerding too much on you all: for simplicity's sake, think of the Masoretic text as the "no Deuterocanon/Apocrypha" Old Testament and the Septuagint as the "Deuterocanon/Apocrypha" Old Testament. I could delve into the history of the two major streams of the Old Testament, but that'd take a long time and would probably bore you to death) say different things in the same passage, the New Testament authors tend to side with the Septuagint.

Now, why is this important? Because, as stated in the previous paragraph, the Septuagint utilizes the Deuterocanon. Granted, there is no uniform canon for the Septuagint, but the copies we have all make use of a variety of the books generally considered "apocryphal" to the majority of Protestants.

Now, to be fair, I must quickly add that the Early Church was not uniform in its understanding of the Deuterocanonical books. While the Church Fathers mentioned above, and many more, utilized it authoritatively, many within the Church were not so readily accepting of them. One example is St. Jerome, while others exist in addition to him. However, few if any of the Early Church Fathers would have entirely rejected them, and absolutely none to my knowledge considered them Satanic (sorry, Chick Tracts...).

So what should be done with them?

Well, the consensus of the Church Fathers throughout history seems to be that they should be considered incredibly important to Christians at the very least, not simply rejected. What the Anglican Communion does is consider them as a "lesser" canon; still to be used in readings during church services and as part of one's studies, but not with the same level of authority as the New Testament or the more universally accepted books of the Old Testament. What that means, for example, is that we can't read the Book of Tobit and find some claim in it that can only be found in that Book (and not in the universally accepted Canon), then teach that point as an authoritative doctrine for the whole Church or as necessary for salvation. Roman Catholicism considers the Deuterocanon to be fully canonical, and the Eastern Churches have a variety of canon lists for the Deuterocanon, as well as varying degrees of canonicity for them.

Protestant churches would do well to utilize these precious texts for teaching, if for no reason other than to help better understand the Scriptures and the Early Church. While specific views differed on the canonicity of these texts, it was universally recognized as at least important for the growth of the Church, and certainly not Satanic books to be avoided.


3) The Early Church Worshiped Liturgically. 


Sorry, guys; the Early Church was not some free-for-all worship-however-you-want music fest. Contrary to popular Protestant belief, the structure of Church worship was pretty high.

And they didn't wear crap like this, thank God (courtesy of the Facebook group "Christian Memes").
"But didn't they worship in homes? Doesn't that strongly imply that they worshiped in a more free-style form?"

Yes, the Early Church generally did meet in homes for their worship services. However, as far as we can see historically, they maintained a pretty high form of liturgical worship. The oldest liturgy still used today is the Liturgy of St. James, which at absolute latest was finalized in the 4th century. Below are a few pictures of the liturgy, taken from The Ante-Nicene Fathers, volume VII:







That's pretty different from your modern worship service today, isn't it?



And while there were house churches...they were still very liturgical. Even the Gospel Coalition has written about this fact.

4) The Early Church was Very Sacramental.


Wait...what's...Sacrimintle theology?


Okay...REALLY quick lesson, here: Sacramental theology is the belief that the Sacraments (specifically Baptism and the Eucharist) mediate Grace to us. When we are Baptized, according to Sacramental theology, we are literally in some mysterious way ("Sacrament" means "mystery") united to the death of Christ (read Romans 6; yes, the entire chapter). When we partake in the Eucharist or what you might call Communion, according to Sacramental theology, we are in some mysterious way taking part in the Body and Blood of Jesus (read John 6:22-71, or more concisely, John 6:52-58; as well, 1 Corinthians 10:16 and a whole host of other passages, but that's enough for now) which saves us. There are other Sacraments in the Western Church, but I want to focus on these two for now.

The Early Church was incredibly Sacramental. Here are a few quotes confessing both the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist and the power of it for the Christian:

"Take ye heed, then, to have but one Eucharist. For there is one flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ, and one cup to (show forth) the unity of His Blood; one altar; as there is one Bishop, along with the Presbytery and Deacons, my fellow-servants: that so, whatsoever ye do, ye may do it according to (the will of) God."--Epistle of St. Ignatius to the Philadelphians, chapter IV (shorter version)

"But consider those who are of a different opinion with respect to the Grace of Christ which has come to us (that part's important), how opposed they are to the will of God. They have no regard for love; no care for the widow, or the orphans, or the oppressed; of the bond, or of the free; of the hungry, or of the thirsty.             


"They abstain from the Eucharist (Communion) and from prayer, (here it comes...) because they confess not the Eucharist to be the Flesh of our Saviour Jesus Christ, which suffered for our sins, and which the Father, of His goodness, raised up again. Those, therefore, who speak against this Gift of God (the Eucharist), incur death in the midst of their disputes. But it is better for them to treat it with respect, that they also might rise again."--Epistle of St. Ignatius to the Smyrneans, chapters VI-VII (shorter version) 

"And this food is called among us the Eucharist, of which no one is allowed to partake but the man who believes that the things which we teach are true, and who has been washed with the washing that is for the remission of sins, and unto regeneration, and who is so living as Christ has enjoined. For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these; but in like manner as Jesus Christ our Saviour, having been made Flesh by the Word of God, had both Flesh and Blood for our salvation, so likewise have we been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word, and from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished, is the Flesh and Blood of that Jesus Who was made Flesh."--St. Justin Martyr's First Apology, chapter 66 (middle of the 2nd century)

Here, we see both the Real Presence and the power of the Eucharist proclaimed in the Early Fathers; there are plenty of other passages that can be used to demonstrate this (as well, I wrote an article last year giving a Scriptural defense of it), but we will move on to Baptism.


Both Baptismal Regeneration (Sacramental theology) and Infant Baptism are taught in the Early Church.

"Now this is what Faith does for us, as the elders, the disciples of the Apostles, have handed down to us. First of all, it has admonished us to remember that we have received Baptism for the remission of sins in the Name of God the Father, and in the Name of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, Who became Incarnate and died and raised, and in the Holy Spirit of God; and that this Baptism is the seal of eternal life and is rebirth unto God, that we be no more children of mortal men, but of the eternal everlasting God; and that the eternal and everlasting One is God, and is above all creatures, and that all things whatsoever are subject to Him; and that what is subject to Him was all made by Him; so that God is not ruler and Lord of what is another's, but of His Own, and all things are God's; that God, therefore, is the Almighty, and all things whatsoever are from God."--St. Irenaeus' The Demonstration of the Apostolic Teaching, (written approximately A.D. 180)

"For He (Jesus) came to save all through means of Himself--all, I say, who through Him are born again to God--infants, and children, and boys, and youths, and old men."--St. Irenaeus' Against Heresies, Book II, 22:4 (written approximately A.D. 180)

"And again, giving to the Disciples the power of regeneration into God, He (Jesus) said to them, 'Go and teach all nations, Baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.'"--St. Irenaeus' Against Heresis, Book III, 17:1 (written approximately A.D. 180)

"But in respect of the case of the infants, which you (Fidus) say ought not to be Baptized within the second or third day after their birth, and that the law of ancient circumcision should be regarded, so that you think that one who is just born should not be Baptized and sanctified within the eighth day (in other words, Fidus is wanting to not Baptize infants until the 8th day, due to Jewish Law making it 8 days before circumcision), we all thought very differently in our council. For in this course which you thought was to be taken, no one agreed; but we all rather judge that the mercy and grace of God is not to be refused to any one born of man."--The Epistles of St. Cyprian of Carthage, Letter LVIII, 2 (written approximately A.D. 253)

I can give many, many more passages. Here is a fuller defense of Baptismal Regeneration and Infant Baptism, but for now these passages I've just posted should suffice. Oh, and in case you are curious, here are some more of those passages.

Conclusion: 

Most of these aren't necessarily essential to the Faith; however, they are important. If we reject these points of doctrine, what is our reasoning? Because they don't fit into our already maintained belief system? Because they would require us to reexamine our church and see if it is one that is consistent with the rest of Christianity? Because we are already too comfortable?

If those are the reasons, it is time for a serious reflection on how your Faith works out in your life. If you have other objections, then seek wisdom on the subject; don't just immediately reject the Fathers because of those objections. See why you disagree with them, and try to work it all out. Ask men and women far more knowledgeable in the Faith than you, including those who are in different denominations. Perhaps, read the Church Fathers themselves.

After all, many of them died for the Faith. Many died so that we could have the Faith passed down to us and the Scriptures to help lead us. The least we can do in thanks is read what they thought, and listen to what they had to say.


Hey there! I'm looking at finishing my undergrad this summer by taking my last two classes in the U.K. and Ireland for a month and a half. I've never been there before, and it would be a really great opportunity to see the homeland of the Anglican Communion, of which I am a part and prayerfully considering to become a priest in. However, I'm needing some more funds for the trip and would greatly appreciate your help. I've set up a GoFundMe page, so if you would, I'd appreciate you taking a look at it. Just FYI, the GoFundMe page takes 25% of the donation you give me; if you know me personally, it'd be best to just contact me and mail or give me a check. Either way, I seriously appreciate you taking the time to read my articles; I hope they've helped you. Please keep me in your prayers, as I'm transitioning in life and about ready to start the process to be examined for the Anglican clergy. God bless you all! 

https://www.gofundme.com/5cb7w4