Monthly Archives: April 2011

Another Adventure with Anglicanism

I have been attending an Anglican church for nearly a year now. I don’t claim to know everything about it; nor do I immediately embrace the Anglican tradition. I am exploring. I am encountering. I am engaging in a form of Christian worship that at some level seems to resonate with part of my soul.

Do I have questions? Yes. Do I have concerns and reservations? Absolutely. While the local church that I am attending is pretty orthodox, and has a sizable population of evangelical Christians, I worry about what is happening at the national and international level of this denomination. Agreed upon moratoriums on ‘hot button topics’ are being ignored and there is a huge sense of activism over unity. Have I figured it all out? No. But I am willing to listen and learn.

What I have found is this: The Anglican services have more Scripture read, preached and sung than any evangelical service I have ever attended. The entire liturgy, even though it is sometimes hampered by awkward wording in order to keep things gender-neutral, is built upon and references Scripture.

Even the ‘pomp’ of the service, from the vestments, to the altar, to the symbolic actions done throughout the service (e.g., having the Bible and a cross walked to the centre of the sanctuary for the Gospel reading, causing the congregation to turn and face another direction), is done in such a way as to visually invite people into the Gospel journey. I admit, I’m not much of a visual learner, and sometimes I have to fight the urge to say, “this is pointless”, knowing that for other people in the congregation, these images are powerful ways to help them enter the presence of God.

I have no doubt that there are God-fearing, Bible-believing Christians in attendance at this church. I also have no doubt that there are pew-warmers in attendance at this church. This is not unique to the Anglican church, and the same can be said for nearly every evangelical church in existence. So why is it that there is arrogant attitude among some who have never even set foot in an Anglican church, that they are quick to condemn all Anglicans as being unregenerate followers of a false gospel?

James MacDonald has a post up reflecting on the Royal Wedding.

He tries to be charitable, referencing his admiration for John Stott and J.I. Packer, men he calls “regenerate Anglicans.” But then he turns his aim at all the bad things that the Royal Wedding demonstrates about the lostness of the Anglican church.

For example:

I am grieved by the religious pomp, contrived ceremony and minimal passing gospel references in the service we and in the end, 2 billion others witnessed. The mumbling singing and distant glare of the couple themselves during the minister’s obligatory rambling grieved my heart deeply, knowing that this is the only church experience most watching will have this year.

I’ve seen a lot of mumbling singing and distant glaring in evangelical services, and don’t get me started on how many sermons have amounted to nothing more than a ‘minister’s obligatory rambling’.

The Anglican community, deeply divided around the world over the authority of God’s word and an orthodox gospel was on display in this wedding seen by as many as 2 billion people. The service was only marginally different than a catholic mass. Reminding us that Anglicanism traces its history not to the heart cries of the reformation: Soli Fide, Sola Scriptura, Sola Christus, but to the convenience of an earthly King who wanted to remain religious while indulging himself in disobedience and unbelief.

How many evangelical churches that trace their roots back to the Reformation, are in existence because of their leaders wanted to do their own thing, being led by convenience and by the indulgence of sin?
Just because a church traces itself back to the Reformation does not make it a good church. Any church that can only see as far back as the Reformation is missing out on 1500 years of Church trying to live out the Gospel. Just because there were mistakes and problems doesn’t mean that all 1500 years should be thrown out. Heck if mistakes and problems mean that we can ignore and throw out entire centuries of Church history, should we not all the more ignore the entire 20th century?

Am I an Anglican? Nope. I’m probably too evangelical to ever fully embrace Anglicanism. But I have learned and am convinced that the evangelical tradition has a lot to learn from Anglicanism. Anglicanism may be having issues and struggles over doctrine and practice, but so too is evangelicalism. The question is, are we willing to humble our hearts and listen to each other as we attempt to listen to the Holy Spirit who points us not to ourselves and to our accomplishments, but to Jesus, the incarnate, crucified and resurrected Lord?

Martial Virtues — A Year in Review

Chuck’s first book Martial Virtues was published in 2010. The book, looking at character development and martial arts, combined two of Chuck’s passions: psychology and martial arts. Shortly after it was published in English, we got word that a publisher in Italy had purchased the rights to have it translated and published in Italian. A few months later, a publisher in France did the same.

Today, we got the 2010 royalty statement. We really weren’t sure what to expect. But, we were shocked when we read that in 2010 (January-December), 1,414 (English) copies of Martial Virtues were sold! That’s an average of 4 copies a day.

Okay, for some 1,414 is not a big number. But to us, it is huge. For a small book on a fairly niche topic, and for a first-time author to boot, 1,414 is amazing. Add to it, Chuck has gotten some fan letters from people who have read his book from all around the world (including an inmate on death row in San Quentin!), which means his parents weren’t the ones who bought up 1,414 copies!

So tonight we went out to celebrate. We celebrated in style by driving all the way to Regina to get Arby’s (what exciting lives we lead). Chuck’s got several projects on the go, but he is hoping to finish up a second book on Martial Arts, this one looking at Christians and Martial Arts.

To all of you who are part of that magic number 1,414, thank you.

The Difference Between Canadian and American Evangelicals

Cardus has a fascinating article up exploring whether there are differences between Canadian and American Evangelicals (aside from stereotypes). Pointing to the research the article points out 5 examples of the differences between Canadian and American Evangelicals. They include:

1. Canadian evangelicals are a much smaller minority in Canada than American evangelicals in the United States.
2. Canadian evangelicals inhabit a more secular environment than American evangelicals.
3. Canadian evangelicals have less confrontational attitudes toward fellow Canadians than American evangelicals do toward fellow Americans.
4. Canadian evangelicals are less invested in a national narrative than American evangelicals.
5. Canadian evangelicals are, on average, less aligned with conventional conservative political stances than are American evangelicals.

Read the whole article for more details.

My questions:

For my American friends who are living in Canada, what differences do you notice?
For my American friends who live in the States and read some Canadian Christian blogs, what differences do you notice?
For my Canadian friends who are living in the States, what differences do you notice?
For my Canadian friends who live in Canada and read American Christian blogs (which is the majority of Christian blogs out there), what differences do you notice?

Rally to Restore Unity

Rachel Held Evans has an announcement up on her blog today about an upcoming Rally to Restore Unity.

Part of the rally will include a synchroblog the week of May 1-7. The theme for the synchroblog is Christian Unity.

So if you have an idea for a post about Christian Unity, work on it and post it to your blog the first week of May, and be sure to put a link in the comments over at Rachel’s blog.

In the meantime here is a song to get you inspired:

Good Friday

“It cannot be emphasized too strongly that God’s love is the source, not the consequence, of the atonement. As P.T. Forsyth expressed it, ‘the atonement did not procure grace, it flowed from grace.’ God does not love us because Christ died for us; Christ died for us because God loved us.”
John Stott, The Cross of Christ, pg 174.

Do Barth and I Have a Future?

I took a class this past semester on the Theology of Karl Barth. I wrote my paper on Chalcedon and explored whether or not Barth is actually Chalcedonian in his Christology, and if he is, is his Christology more Antiochian or Alexandrian.

I had fun with the class and with the paper partly because Barth can be so infuriating. (e.g., one of the problems with Barth and trying to pin down whether he is Antiochian or Alexandrian is that he takes hundreds of pages to get from one side to the other of the dialectic).

Having invested so much time and reading in Barth this semester, I decided that for the upcoming “Theology of the Holy Spirit” class (May 2-6) that I would do my class presentation and paper on Barth’s pneumatology. Of course, this means that I am reading huge chunks of the Dogmatics, not to mention “The Holy Spirit and the Christian Life”, as well as a huge stack of secondary sources. At the moment I think my paper and presentation will focus on two different areas. I think for my presentation I will show how Barth is reacting (over-reacting?) to the immanence of the spirit in 19th century Liberal Protestantism, and also reacting against Christian Pietism. I think I will conclude the presentation with an overview of his section on the Baptism of the Holy Spirit in IV.4 where he seems to have mellowed considerably in his objections to Pietism. As for the paper, I think I want to address the question, “Is Barth’s Pneumatology too Christo-centric?” (There is some flexibility in the paper topic as it’s not due until after the class has been completed. So I may end up changing my focus).

The question then becomes, what happens after this class? Do I break up with Barth? I could see myself doing my MA Thesis on Barth, in fact I already have the thought of an idea of a possible thesis (how vague is that?). But do I really want to devote myself to Barth for the next couple of years?

Reasons to stick with Barth for the rest of this degree:

*It’s fun to throw the Dogmatics at the wall when I disagree with Barth.
*Having something to disagree with makes for a interesting paper (at least it makes the writing of the paper interesting. Whether reading the paper is interesting, well that’s up to the opinion of the professor).
*I like telling people I’m into Barth and see their reaction of “oh no, she’s becoming a neo-orthodox heretic!”
*Barth is the hip cool thing this year thanks to the big Dogmatics sale at CBD.

Reasons not to stick with Barth for the rest of this degree:

*I’ll have to read Schleiermacher, Ritschl and other 19th century Liberal Protestants.
*I’ll have to read Augustine.
*I’m not Reformed. And I like being a Wesleyan, thank you very much.
*Barth is frustrating and I end up throwing Dogmatics against the wall.
*Why is so much theology dominated by dead Germans? Can’t I read somebody from this century?
*The majority of people have no idea what I’m talking about when they ask what I’m studying.
*Using Chuck as a sounding board when I’m wrestling through a passage of the Dogmatics causes his eyes to glass over and to him I begin to sound like the teacher from Charlie Brown.

So can you help me out? Looking for more reasons to keep reading Barth, or reasons to give Barth the boot. Which way do would you vote?