Tuesday, October 31, 2017

A Five Hundred Year Old Schism is Nothing to Celebrate

Today marks the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation; most of the people celebrating it would be considered blasphemous heretics by Martin Luther, and those of us not celebrating it recognize that schism is not a thing to rejoice over.

Let us pray that our descendants will not be observing a 600 year anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. Let us pray that we as the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church will be reunited, for the sake of the world.

 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me."--John 21:20-23

Thanks for reading all of the way through; I hope you like my blog! If so, I'd love for you to check out my Patreon page and support me as I go through seminary. Oh? You don't know I'm in seminary? Well, I am! Yeah, if you wish you can check out my article on that, here. Be sure to check out my Facebook page, too! 

Oh! And I also run a podcast with my atheist friend, Xrys! It's called The Religious Nut and Hellbound Sinner Podcast, and we have a fun time discussing all sorts of topics: religion, politics, science, philosophy, movies, etc. Check out our Facebook page on that, as well! 

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Response to Quad-Cities Anglican Radio on their Interview with Fr. Mark Rowe

One of my favorite podcasts is Quad Cities Anglican Radio. I actually happened upon it by chance; the name does not conjure up any sort of thoughts of Anglo-Catholicism, and there are plenty of Anglican podcasts out there already for me to listen to. So I kept myself subscribed to them, and more or less forgot they existed.

However, one day I looked at the names of their episodes, and found their topics to be interesting. After giving an episode a try, I was amazed to see how the hosts, both priests, were apparently very strong Anglo-Catholics. They quickly became one of my favorite podcasts.

The ACNA (Anglican Church in North America), which is what both they and I are currently under, recently came out with a statement concerning the ordination of women to the priesthood. Traditional Anglicans, myself included, reject the ordination of women to the priesthood (yes, it’s a controversial topic, and this article is not aimed at defending the historic position; I do plan on writing an article in the future on that subject). Unfortunately, the ACNA has some bishops who “ordain” women to the priesthood, and the statement released recently stated, in essence, that that practice will not change for now.

This is an unfortunate development within Anglicanism, and many of us are deeply upset about our bishops’ current position on the matter. So Quad-Cities Anglican has been doing a sort of tour of other catholic bodies of the Faith, seemingly (and this is perhaps reading too much into their actions) to hint that they and others are seriously looking at different jurisdictions.

Do I blame them? No, not at all. I don’t even think they’re doing anything particularly wrong. They first looked at what’s known as the Continuing Anglican churches, which just had a joint synod (that’s a very exciting development, too). As well, they recently visited a ROCOR (RussianOrthodox Church Outside of Russia) Western Rite conference, and spoke to some former Anglicans there.
This is where I started to find problems in what they were doing. No, no; it’s not wrong to look at becoming Eastern Orthodox. Not necessarily, at least (more on that, later). I sympathize with their frustration with the ACNA. I truly do.

My problem is particularly in their first episode at the conference, the one with Fr. Mark Rowe. Fr. Mark, a former Anglican (part of the very Anglo-Catholic and conservative Continuing Anglicans; he also was Roman Catholic before that…), joined the Orthodox Church after years of searching. One of the pivotal points for him was visiting an Orthodox monastery, in which he was asked four questions by a monk there.

The questions were—well, we’ll get to that in a moment. They’re, bluntly put, silly. The responses (or lack thereof) were what greatly frustrated me; both from Fr. Mark Rowe when he was Anglican and first receiving these questions, and the two Anglican priests interviewing him.

I want to stress that I consider the Orthodox--both Eastern and Oriental--to be part of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. I consider them full brothers and sisters in Christ. Unfortunately, they do not extend that same thought to Anglicanism (though there are historical exceptions). My problem is not that someone may want to join Orthodoxy, but rather that one is claiming that there is not Catholicity in Anglicanism, whatsoever. Furthermore, the responses to the following questions are, as indicated before, lackluster at best. 

First Question: “Is your church (currently) producing Saints?”

Response from the Anglican Priests:
No canonized saints being currently produced. They agree with Fr. Mark Rowe that, “The only answer is ‘no’.”

My Response:
What an insult to their own parish members. I’d be insulted by that claim towards my parish; there are plenty of Saints there. A woman, the week I listened to this, had given me money to help pay for my rent. She did it without me asking, and she did it with no fanfare. One at my parish in Tennessee adopts children in his old age, and will just as soon give the shirt off his back to clothe someone naked. But they are not  Saints?

As for canonicity, I find that a rather silly particular: are we being asked for an official canonization process? Is there something lacking in us not having the title “St.” preceding men like C.S. Lewis, who has his own Anglican feast day? And what about Canon Andrew White? Did he not cross the minds of our Anglican co-hosts as someone who most certainly is a Saint being produced by our Communion? Is the Orthodox Church currently producing Saints? Who? Seraphim Rose, the guy who apparently allowed “Gleb” HermanPodmoshensky to abuse young men at his monastery?
This question is rife with problems that, for the life of me, I do not understand how even an unlearned Anglican could be troubled by. Frankly, the response they gave is both intellectually dishonest and an insult to their flock.

Second Question: “If you could do, liturgically, for the most part, that which you do now, but do it within the Church that unequivocally is the Church founded by Christ, why would you not do it?”

Response from the Anglican Priests:
“I have no retort to that one.”
“I have no retort.”
To be fair, later, one of the priests defends Anglicanism in this one; what I respond with in my first paragraph is also what he says (he places it as a hypothetical; that one “might” argue such-and-such, distancing himself from the argument). He then “balances” that with claiming that we aren’t recognized by any of the five Patriarchates.

My Response:
The question presupposes that I am not part of the Church founded by Christ already, or at least am unsure that I am. Except that I am sure that I am; as sure as the Eastern Orthodox are.
We aren’t recognized by any of the five Patriarchates, but that’s easily chalked up to politics at play. I mean, that’s what 1054 itself is largely about, yes? And the debates between Oriental Orthodoxy and Eastern Orthodoxy are, themselves, due to mistakes and misunderstandings. As well, I would argue that Canterbury is certainly a Patriarchate—and if you are going to raise the heresy that is currently going on in the Church of England, I’m going to simply point to one of the past Patriarchs of Constantinople, the arch-heretic Nestorius, and many others, in response.

Third Question: “Why would you even take a chance on risking your salvation?”

Response from the Anglican Priests:
A defense of Anglo-Catholicism was given, with an admission that there is a “fly in the ointment” in the larger Anglican Communion.

My Response:
Yes, there is the "fly in the ointment" of women being "ordained" into the priesthood. There is, of course, also the greater problem of liberalism in the Anglican Communion in general. But in the 300's we had the Church Catholic literally taken over almost entirely by Arians--people who deny the full Deity of Christ. That was, interestingly enough, pushed by Eastern Bishops. We also had Nestorianism, again pushed not only by Eastern Bishops but literally named after the Patriarch of Constantinople. Later we had Monophysitism pushed by Eastern Bishops. Then Monothelitism pushed by Eastern Bishops. Seeing a trend, here? So the Eastern Orthodox have plenty of flies in their ointment's history.

Heresy gains major footholds sometimes; our job is to stand resolute against heresy, and speak the Truth in Love. 

Fourth Question: “If you were at liturgy in the Tomb of the Holy Sepulcher—the Tomb of your Savior, Christ—could you take Communion?”

Response from the Anglican Priests: No.

My Response:
Why does that matter?

Seriously, if Mormons became militant and took over the Middle East, and set up a church at the Tomb of the Holy Sepulcher, would that mean that they are the one true Church? When Rome took over Jerusalem in the Crusades, did that make them the one true Church? This argument depends upon the geo-political reality of today, and doesn’t really demonstrate any ecclesiastical ontology.

Also, you receive Communion; you don’t “take” it. Communion is not yours for the taking.

These were the four questions the monk asked Fr. Mark Rowe, which ultimately helped lead him to reject his Holy Orders and become Orthodox. I don't find them convincing, on even the slightest level. There are reasons people are frustrated with the ACNA; I count myself among the frustrated. But these are not reasons to leave. This sort of thinking is one of the reasons I abandoned my journey towards Eastern Orthodoxy, and instead joined Anglicanism.

Thanks for reading all of the way through; I hope you like my blog! If so, I'd love for you to check out my Patreon page and support me as I go through seminary. Oh? You don't know I'm in seminary? Well, I am! Yeah, if you wish you can check out my article on that, here. Be sure to check out my Facebook page, too! 

Oh! And I also run a podcast with my atheist friend, Xrys! It's called The Religious Nut and Hellbound Sinner Podcast, and we have a fun time discussing all sorts of topics: religion, politics, science, philosophy, movies, etc. Check out our Facebook page on that, as well! 

Monday, October 9, 2017

Why Sacramental Theology is So Essential to the Christian Life

There was a man, Nicky, and woman, Suzie, who one day decided to get married. They invited their families and friends to the wedding, had their preacher marry them, and went off to their honeymoon in the Rockies for a week. When they returned, they bought a house together, got jobs, and lived in the same home for their entire lives. The couple lived long lives: both died in their nineties. 

There's just one problem: during their entire lives, Nicky and Suzie never--and I mean never--were intimate. They never even held hands. Not a single time did they even accidentally physically bump into each other. 

Oh, sure, they intellectually knew so much about the other: Suzie could tell you, from memory, every job that Nicky had ever had. Nicky could tell you what Suzie's favorite TV shows were. They both knew each others' favorite cereals. If you gave them each tests about the other person, they'd surely ace them. 

Would...that be fully participating in marriage? 

I think we would largely agree that something essential is lacking in that relationship. 

But we have many Nicky and Suzie stories out there, today, in Christianity. We have "Christians", so-called, who aren't Baptized. We have people who have never received the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist. We have people who think that the Christian life is all about an intellectual ascent, or maybe merely an inward repentance, and nothing else. I'm not talking about special cases, like the thief on the cross, or the person who's dying and who's just heard the Gospel for the first time. I'm speaking of people who, for years, actively do not participate in the Christian life via the Sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist. 

Baptism is our marriage into Christ: it is where we are physically enjoined to the death of Christ, so that we might rise with Him. That's in Romans 6, the entire chapter. 

If Baptism is our marriage, then--and I don't mean anything funny by this--the Eucharist is sex. 

1 Corinthians 10:16 seems to indicate as much in its usage of the word "koinonia"; it's meant to convey a most intimate connection. That's not necessarily sex, but I'm using it as an "if/then", and koinonia is certainly a very deep connection/participation/fellowship. 

Not comfortable with that? We can use this instead: if Baptism is birth, then the Eucharist is feeding for nourishment. 

However you want to look at it, Baptism and the Eucharist are important parts of the Christian Faith. Jesus claims that we have no life in us unless we "truly truly...eat [His] Flesh and drink [His] Blood". Back to 1 Corinthians 10:16, it asks rhetorically if Communion is not a participation in the Body and Blood of Christ; St. Paul also claims that we must be careful to discern the Body of Christ, or we partake to our own judgment (1 Corinthians 11:27-32). 

Sacramental theology is the belief that we are actually, truly, connected to Christ in some mysterious way, through the Sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist. That's what "Sacrament" means: mystery. Unlike much of modern American Christianity, it teaches that there is a tangible, incarnational element to our Faith that we can physically interact with. 

Jesus didn't simply leave us with a book (well, He never did that anyway; let alone "simply" do that). Jesus left us with a cleansing and a meal. It was by eating that we fell in sin; how fitting that by eating, we are brought back into a most intimate fellowship with God. 

Thanks for reading all of the way through; I hope you like my blog! If so, I'd love for you to check out my Patreon page and support me as I go through seminary. Oh? You don't know I'm in seminary? Well, I am! Yeah, if you wish you can check out my article on that, here. Be sure to check out my Facebook page, too! 

Oh! And I also run a podcast with my atheist friend, Xrys! It's called The Religious Nut and Hellbound Sinner Podcast, and we have a fun time discussing all sorts of topics: religion, politics, science, philosophy, movies, etc. Check out our Facebook page on that, as well! 

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Long Awaited Update from the New Seminarian

Hey, all! I'm in seminary now!

So, this entire year has been rather eventful: from my brother and his family becoming Roman Catholic (former Baptists), to me starting a relationship with a girl (some girl...likes me? I know; I'm amazed, too!), to starting a new podcast, to a car crash, to lots of traveling, and finally, to applying and now attending a seminary, I've been through quite a bit!

What seminary am I at? Well, Trinity School for Ministry, of course! It's an Anglican seminary, with a strong Evangelical bent to it. You might think that a cranky Anglo-Catholic like myself would want to stay away from an institution with such a push...and you'd be right, probably. While I'm Anglo-Catholic, I'm not (always) cranky.

But sincerely, I don't want to be unbalanced. There is this understanding of Anglicanism where we are "three streams" of Christianity: Liturgical, Evangelical, and Charismatic. I don't want to segment myself into simply one of those streams; I want to embrace the fullness of the Faith. Catholicism, properly understood, embraces the fullness of the Faith, and I want to do likewise.

Trinity is an amazing seminary, with excellent professors and a welcoming, loving spirit. The education has, so far, been top-notch. As well, there is a Lutheran track for my Lutheran friends! What I love best is how the seminary is equipping us for ministry, rather than simply filling empty heads with knowledge (mine's more emptier-er than others).

Please keep me in prayer, as finances are tough during this time.

That's where you guys come in.

I've set up a Patreon page in order to help with the finances for my time in seminary. I'm going for an M.Div, so that means I'll be here for three years. As of now, I'm doing full time work and full time school; while I am so far managing that balance as much as I can, it is incredibly stressful and does not allow me to fully immerse myself in my studies. Donating to my Patreon will help me, immensely, in being able to devote my time to my academic studies.

Thanks for sticking with me while I continue this crazy ride through life, continuing to follow my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, however imperfectly that is done. :)

Thursday, January 12, 2017

For the Wages of Sin is Death, Not Torture: Why I Hold to Annihilationism (Part 2: Scripture)

Sorry; this was finished much later than I was hoping. I partly forgot to finish it and partly was busy with school and the Christmas Season.

In the last article on this subject, we talked about the reasons, nature, and goals for punishment. I want to, in this article, look at specific passages talking about the nature and goals of punishment. This is Part 2 in my explanation and defense of Annihilationism (Part 1 can be found here).

Before we start, I want you to do something for me. I want you to challenge yourself on a few presuppositions:

Find me a verse stating that souls are inherently immortal.

We come to Scripture, many of us, with the Platonic error of assuming that souls are inherently immortal, and therefore either can't die or by default will never die, wicked or righteous. What verses claim that?

Find me a verse stating that the punishment for sin is eternal conscious torment.

Aha! You might say. You probably came up with Revelation 20:10 or Matthew 25:46. Eh...just hold on to those verses; they'll be dealt with soon enough.

Also, I want to assure you that Annihilationism is NOT the following:

It is NOT the claim that there is no punishment for sins.

It is NOT the claim that the punishment for sins is temporary.

It is NOT the claim that there is no hell.

There; are we good? Okay, now, onward!

The Nature of the Punishment: Death, not Torture

Scripture repeatedly tells us, point-blank, what the nature of the punishment is.

Romans 6:23

"For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord."

The wages of sin is...death? Not torment? But can't death simply mean "separation from God" or something? 

I mean, it can and, I would argue, does have that definition. The problem is that that definition would still point to annihilation. If God is the Source of life, and you are separated from God...you are separated from the Source of life. No one is truly and fully separated from the Source of life until the Judgment. Even the reprobate today receive the grace of God: "The rain falls on the just and the unjust." 

Matthew 10:28

"And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell." 

This passage speaks so clearly to what death is in the context of its relationship to hell. Here, what Jesus says is that what happens to the body at death by the hand of man (destruction, cessation of life in the body, but not cessation of life in the soul), happens to both soul and body in hell (destruction, cessation of life in both body and soul). 

2 Thessalonians 1:9

"They shall suffer the punishment of eternal destruction and exclusion from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might."

The wicked suffer the punishment of "eternal destruction", and they will no longer be in the presence of the Lord or the glory of his might. The destruction lasts forever, unlike the 1st death. This is compounded by the fact that they will no longer be in the presence of the Lord. The Lord, Who is, of course, omni-present.

Matthew 25:46

 "And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."

After spending quite a few verses detailing how the righteous and wicked will be judged, Jesus states that the wicked will receive eternal punishment, but (and the word "but" is essential, here!) the righteous will receive eternal life."

"But Barely Protestant! Jesus just stated that the wicked will receive 'eternal punishment', right? Surely, that means that the wicked are tormented for all eternity!"

Nope. At least, not necessarily. And when you define the punishment for sins as Scripture does, it really doesn't make sense to claim that the punishment is eternal torment.

A man who is sentenced to be killed for his crimes, what is his punishment? Death. Death is his punishment.

"But Barely Protestant! It says 'eternal punishment'! Death isn't eternal! It's, well, momentary, and...well, okay, it actually is eternal, I guess, but, well, it doesn't hurt eternally! So there!"

The first death isn't eternal, sure. After all, we all get Resurrected. However, the righteous and wicked are Resurrected to be judged, and the punishment of the wicked is known as "the second death". In addition to this, the Scriptures repeatedly state (as has already been seen) that the punishment is death. If the first death is not eternal, and the punishment is known as "the second death", then it makes sense that Scripture would call this "eternal punishment": the punishment (death!) is eternal! This isn't contrived, but a consistent reading of what Scripture repeatedly says about the punishment for sin. 

I could go on and on with these passages, but I want to finish this article up some time this century, so I will instead give references to a few more along these lines:

(This list is taken from Preston Sprinkle's article on the subject. Preston Sprinkle co-wrote with Francis Chan Erasing Hell, a book responding in part to Rob Bell's Love Wins; after co-writing that book, Preston Sprinkle now leans heavily towards the concept of annhilationism, though he is not yet thoroughly convinced. As well, I and many annihilationists would differ from him on certain claims, even in the above-mentioned article. Here is the first part of a two-part interview Preston Sprinkle did with Rethinking Hell on the subject; it's a very good listen!)

Verses talking about the punishment being "destruction" or "perishing":

Matthew 7:13, John 3:16, John 17:12, Acts 8:20, Romans 9:22-23 (hey, Calvinists! it's in your favorite chapter!), Philippians 1:28, Philippians 3:19, 2 Thessalonians 2:3, 1 Timothy 6:9, Hebrews 10:39, 2 Peter 2:1, 1 Thessalonians 5:3.

Verses talking about the punishment being "death":

Romans 1:32, Romans 6:21, Romans 7:5, Romans 8:6, 1 Corinthians 15:21-22 and 56, 2 Corinthians 2:16, 2 Corinthians 7:10, James 1:15, James 5:20, 1 John 5:16, Revelation 2:11, Revelation 20:6 and 14, Revelation 21:8.

Verses talking about the punishment being the "end":

Romans 6:21-22, 2 Corinthians 11:15, Philippians 3:19, 1 Peter 4:1.

Verses talking about the punishment being "disintegration/corruption":

Galatians 6:8, 2 Peter 1:4, 2 Peter 2:12.

This barely scratches the surface; for instance, we've not even hit on the Old Testament passages! But I hope these are enough to at least help you rethink your understanding of what Scripture says about the nature of final punishment.

The Goals of God's Judgment

The way Scripture talks about creation after the Judgment leaves me with only two options: Annihilationism or Universalism. Why? Well, let's look at what Scripture says:

1 Corinthians 15:24-28

Here, we see a future in which all of creation is under the rule of Christ, Who gives His Kingdom to the Father. It explicitly states that "the last enemy to be destroyed is death". Even death itself will be no more, after all of the wicked are destroyed.

Colossians 1:19-20

We see God reconciling ALL things to Himself through Christ. This paints a picture, along with 1 Corinthians 15, of there being a time where there is no more death or rebellion against God. Now, in the traditional understanding, is there still rebellion? Of course there is. Those in hell would be still rebelling against God, would they not?

Isaiah 66:22-24

Here, we see a depiction of the result of the final judgment, after a poetic passage proclaiming that "From new moon to new moon, and from Sabbath to Sabbath, all flesh shall come to worship before Me, says the LORD." All flesh shall worship the Lord, and the dead bodies of the wicked will be eaten by worms and burned in unquenchable fire. Notice that the people, the wicked, are dead. This isn't talking about torment, but rather their dead bodies; their carcasses. The worm "dies not" until it has completely eaten the flesh, and the fire is "unquenched", meaning it will utterly destroy what remains, without interruption.


"But," some of you might say, "what about the Rich Man and Lazarus? What about Revelation 20:10?"

The parable (or true account, if you wish: it doesn't change this question either way) of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 12:19-31) is not about hell. Specifically, it's about the intermediate state, known as hades. Whether this depiction is to be taken as a factual account or a metaphor, the point is that this is depicting what happens before the Judgment. This is evidenced by the fact that the Rich Man asks Abraham to let Lazarus witness to his brothers, who are still alive.

As for Revelation 20:10, the Book of Revelation itself is a very confusing read. First, let me ask this: do you believe that there will be (or there was) a literal seven-headed, ten-horned beast with a vampiric prostitute riding its back?

I'm guessing not.

The thing about Revelation is that it gives a LOT of imagery that John sees, and writes down. Sometimes the imagery is interpreted by an Angel or revealed in the book itself. For the imagery of eternal torment in Revelation 20:10, there is an interpretation of it given. In verse 14, we see an interpretation of the "Lake of Fire":

"Then Death and Hades were thrown into the Lake of Fire. This is the Second Death, the Lake of fire;"

As well, the imagery of the Beast being thrown into the Lake of Fire is, in part, taken from similar imagery in the Book of Daniel. In Daniel 7, we see the Fourth Beast being thrown into fire is interpreted by the angel in verse 26 as the destruction of the kingdom it represents. Christian exegetes largely consider this to be the same beast as in Revelation, the one thrown into the Lake of Fire. If these images both depict the same event, it seems to be undeniable that the imagery in Revelation 20 is meant to be interpreted as death and destruction. And remember, that's what Revelation 20:14 seems to state, as well!

Apocalyptic imagery is almost always weird. We need to take the Biblical interpretation of the imagery at face-value, not the imagery itself. So don't take the imagery in which torment is depicted as more literal than the angelic interpretation in Daniel 7:26 and the explanation in Revelation 20:14.


Are there other objections? Probably, though, none that I can think of right now. At least, none that are Biblical. If you think of any, comment below and let me know. I'll try to answer them. My next article in this particular series will talk about the Early Church and what they thought on the subject. You may be surprised with that one, as well!

Check out Rethinking Hell, a great website of conservative Christians from various denominations who defend this concept of hell. As well, they have a podcast and YouTube channel. They're a really great source on this subject. Enjoy! 

Thanks for reading all of the way through; I hope you like my blog! If so, I'd love for you to check out my Patreon page and support me as I go through seminary. Oh? You don't know I'm in seminary? Well, I am! Yeah, if you wish you can check out my article on that, here. Be sure to check out my Facebook page, too! 

Oh! And I also run a podcast with my atheist friend, Xrys! It's called The Religious Nut and Hellbound Sinner Podcast, and we have a fun time discussing all sorts of topics: religion, politics, science, philosophy, movies, etc. Check out our Facebook page on that, as well!