Monday, July 16, 2018

Feminist Gekokujō : A Human-Centered Attempt to Rename God and To Make God Obey Her

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"To exist humanly is to name the self, the world, and God."

--Mary Daly (1928-2010), a Feminist theologian

"Gekokujo" (下剋上) is a Japanese word meaning "low overcoming high". It refers to when the people lower down in a hierarchy rise up and overthrow those above them. Rebellions, mutinies, and populist uprisings are all gekokujo.(source)


LONDON — A group of female priests with the Church of England have moved for the denomination to start referring to God as a “she” during the weekly liturgy, stating that to make mention of God solely in the male pronoun is sexist.

According to reports, the group Women and the Church (WATCH), which was behind the push to allow women to serve as bishops in the denomination, is now in talks with the Liturgical Commission for a change in the pronoun used during services when speaking of God. The group says that to refer to God in the masculine devalues women.

from the Women and the Church (WATCH) homepage

When we used only male language we reinforce the idea that God is like a man and, in doing so, suggest that men are therefore more like God than women,” member Emma Percy, who leads services at Trinity College in Oxford, said in a statement. “If we take seriously the idea that men and women are made in the image of God, both male and female language should be used.”

Jody Stowell of St. Michael’s Harrow told that referring to the divine in only masculine terms also places limits on the revelation of God’s character.

Orthodox theology says all human beings are made in the image of God, that God does not have a gender. He encompasses gender. He is both male and female and beyond male and female,” she said. “So when we only speak of God in the male form, that’s actually giving us a deficient understanding of who God is.”

Percy said that the move was presented at this point in time because of changes in the denomination surrounding women.

[The proposal] caught the imagination now because we’ve got women bishops, so in a sense the church has accepted that women are equally valued in God’s sight and can represent God at all levels,” she explained. “In the last two or three years we’ve seen a real resurgence and interest in feminism, and younger people are much more interested in how gender categories shouldn’t be about stereotypes.”

We want to encourage people to be freer, and we want to get the Liturgical Commission to understand that people are actually quite open to this and there is room for richer language to be used,” Percy said.

Reports state that some congregations are already referring to God as “mother” or “she” during services.



WASHINGTON — The Episcopal Diocese of Washington, D.C. voted on Saturday to stop using “gendered pronouns” for God in future revisions of its Book of Common Prayer and to “remove all obstacles” for “transgender” participation in church life by making all gender-specific facilities and activities accessible to those who identify as the opposite sex.

Resolved … that the 79th General Convention direct the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music, if revision of the Book of Common Prayer is authorized, to utilize expansive language for God from the rich sources of feminine, masculine, and non-binary imagery for God found in Scripture and tradition and, when possible, to avoid the use of gendered pronouns for God,” the resolution read.

It was passed by a show of hands during the 123rd Convention of the Washington Diocese with only a few opposed, according to Strategic Communications Director Richard Wosson Weinberg.

While other Christian denominations have embraced more comprehensive language for God, The Episcopal Church has chosen to use masculine pronouns when referring to the first and third person of the Trinity. This choice has had a profound impact on our understanding of God. Our current gender roles shape and limit our understanding of God,” the diocese said in an explanation of the resolution.

By expanding our language for God, we will expand our image of God and the nature of God,” it continued. “Our new Book of Common Prayer needs to reflect the language of the people and our society. This resolution assumes that the authors of our new Book of Common Prayer will continue in the long tradition of beautiful poetic language. However, this beautiful language should not be limited by gendered pronouns when avoidable.”

According to reports, delegate Linda Calkins of St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church in Laytonsville, Maryland wanted the diocese to go a step further as she held a copy of “The Inclusive Bible: The First Egalitarian Translation” and asked when the version would be utilized.

She read from Genesis 17, in which the “Inclusive Bible” referred to God as “El Shaddai.”

[I]f we are going to be true to what El Shaddai means, it means God with breasts,” Calkins claimed.

The diocese also stated that its resolution surrounding those with gender dysphoria was to ensure that those who live as the opposite sex feel welcomed as fellow Christians.

Transgender Christians are searching for a connection with God within a loving community where they can worship and work for equality and justice. Unfortunately, many transgender people are too often left without a place to worship because congregations are not ready to welcome them as their Christian companions,” it asserted. “Fixed boundaries of gender identity are being challenged and churches need to respond.”

The resolution, in addition to decrying violence against “transgender” persons, also urged “all parishes to remove all obstacles to full participation in congregational life by making all gender-specific facilities and activities fully accessible, regardless of gender identity and expression.”

The measure was stated to have passed without dissent.

As previously reported, in 2015, when a group of women known as WATCH moved for the Church of England to start referring to God as a “she” during the weekly liturgy, stating that to make mention of God solely in the male pronoun is sexist, some expressed strong opposition.

Referring to God as ‘mother’ drives a horse and cart through Scripture. Such an innovation is guaranteed to split the C of E as never before,” wrote Damian Thompson in the Daily Mail.

Lord Carey, former Archbishop of Canterbury, has warned us that the church could be extinct in 25 years’ time unless services become more spiritually fulfilling. Calling God ‘she’ will not achieve that fulfillment,” he stated. “The proposed twist of language will do nothing to stop the decline of Christian faith in this country. On the contrary, it will make worshippers squirm. And nothing empties pews faster than that.”

1 John 4:14 reads, “And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world.”

Jesus also said in John 15:26, “But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, He shall testify of Me.”

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Why did C.S. Lewis think that "Contemporary Free Worship" was impossible for him?


C.S. Lewis is a beloved author among Christians around the world. His popular works of children’s fantasy, Christian apologetics, theology, allegory, science fiction, devotional works, as well as his less familiar but equally profound works on literature are sold by the millions. 

But many Christians don’t consider that C.S. Lewis not only worshipped with a liturgy (the Book of Common Prayer) but was a strong proponent of liturgical worship. The same service we use here at Saint Francis nourished Lewis on a daily basis as he employed its daily offices of Morning and Evening Prayer in both public and private worship, and as he frequently participated in the service of Holy Communion. 

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Lewis not only fed his own spiritual life using the framework of a Biblical and beautiful liturgy, he thought that a fixed liturgy was vital to healthy worship. Some assert that a prescribed service stifles devotion. Lewis celebrated the fixed nature of the service precisely because it sets our hearts free to pray and to worship

In a letter to a friend dated April 1, 1952, Lewis wrote: 

“The advantage of a fixed form of service is that we know what is coming. Extempore public prayer has this difficulty: we don’t know whether we can mentally join in it until we’ve heard it—it might be phony or heretical. We are therefore called upon to carry on a critical and a devotional activity at the same moment: two things hardly compatible. In a fixed form we ought to have ‘gone through the motions’ before in our private prayers: the rigid form really sets our devotions free.” 

The rigid form sets our devotions free! Try it, you may find that it’s true. Prayers and Psalms from the Bible, and written prayers that draw deeply from the rich soil of the history of the people of God can become a springboard for our hearts to rise up to God without distraction. But other distractions are also removed by a fixed liturgy which takes us to the essence of the Faith: 

“I also find the more rigid it is, the easier it is to keep one’s thoughts from straying. Also it prevents any service getting too completely eaten up by whatever happens to be the preoccupation of the moment (a war, an election, or what not). The permanent shape of Christianity shows through. I don’t see how the extempore method can help becoming provincial and I think it has a great tendency to direct attention to the minister rather than to God.” 

The modern American church celebrates novelty as an indication of spontaneity and vibrancy. Lewis valued liturgy for the very reason that it eradicates novelty. Novelty is narcissistic. Novelty turns our focus upon what we are doing, and away from God. In his book Letters to Malcolm, Chiefly on Prayer, he writes: 

“Novelty, simply as such, can have only an entertainment value. And they don't go to church to be entertained. They go to use the service, or, if you prefer, to enact it. Every service is a structure of acts and words through which we receive a sacrament, or repent, or supplicate, or adore. And it enables us to do these things best—if you like, it ‘works’ best— when, through long familiarity, we don't have to think about it. 
  As long as you notice, and have to count, the steps, you are not yet dancing but only learning to dance. A good shoe is a shoe you don't notice. Good reading becomes possible when you need not consciously think about eyes, or light, or print, or spelling. The perfect service would be one we were almost unaware of; our attention would have been on God. But every novelty prevents this. It fixes our attention on the service itself; and thinking about the worship is a different thing from worshipping . . .
  ‘Tis mad idolatry that makes the service greater than the god.’ A still worse thing may happen. Novelty may fix our attention not even on the service but on the celebrant. You know what I mean. Try as one may to exclude it, the question ‘What on earth is he up to now?’ will intrude. It lays one’s devotion waste. There is really some excuse for the man who said, ‘I wish they’d remember that the charge to Peter was ‘Feed my sheep’; not ‘Try experiments on my rats’, or even, ‘Teach my performing dogs new tricks.’” 

These are words which our contemporary church culture would do well to consider.

Common Prayer, Or Predictable Politics? by Dr. Carl R. Trueman [Gender-inclusive Issue]

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Carl R. Trueman (born 1967) is a Christian theologian and church historian. He is a Professor of Historical Theology and Church History and holds the Paul Woolley Chair of Church History at Westminster Theological Seminary.[1] Trueman will join the faculty at Grove City College as a full professor in the Department of Biblical and Religious studies beginning in the Fall 2018. 


As Western society continues its relentless purge of the pre-political, the body count keeps mounting. Yesterday's harmless activity—say, boys-only scouting—is tomorrow’s act of cisgendered heteronormative patriarchal oppression of the Other. Like some dreaded mutating bacillus, the political slowly but surely absorbs—and spoils—everything.

I was reminded of this recently when I was given as a gift the Folio Society’s edition of the Book of Common Prayer. Like all Folio Society volumes, the Prayer Book is a thing of beauty. 

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The Folio Society: The Book of Common Prayer

And though the Prayer Book was, at least historically for my Presbyterian tradition, an instrument of social control through its imposition by the Act of Uniformity in 1662 (and thus scarcely pre-political in practical application), its content reflects a form of Christianity that ultimately reflected not so much the politics of Reformation England as the basic elements of historic Christianity and of earthly existence. 

Those elements include the God of the catholic creeds, and human life bookended by birth and death and lived in world full of the joys and sorrows, drudgery and delights, of ordinary, universal human experiences—love, marriage, illness, bereavement. There are services and prayers in the Book of Common Prayer that address all of these hardy perennials, connecting them to the Trinitarian God revealed in Jesus Christ.

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That, I suspect, is one reason why the basics of the Prayer Book stayed in place for so long, with revisions being for many generations of the minor sort. Consensus on the fundamentals remained steady, and the changes were accordingly cosmetic. 

By contrast, the last century has witnessed liturgical change after liturgical change wrought by the various Anglican and Episcopal groupings around the world. None of these changes, as far as I can tell, embodies anything like significant improvement in either prose style or theological content. Tracing the revisions would no doubt prove a fruitful, if depressing, topic for a Ph.D. thesis, as the revisions witness to an age of restlessness and shortsighted obsession with the latest fads.

One of the reasons for this is surely that Christian liturgy—and God himself—have become victims of the abolition of the pre-political: Even those universals of human existence mentioned above—birth, sex, death—have become the political issues of the day via abortion, LGBTQ rights, and euthanasia. For the postcolonial mindset, to hold to a traditional liturgy that refuses to play the games of a pan-politicized world is to take a political position. 

And so traditional liturgy comes under relentless pressure to conform to the latest piety of the dominant political lobbying groups. When politics is everything, God loses his awesome transcendence and human beings take center stage. And the momentary afflictions of the professional victims displace the eternal weight of God’s glory. Historic, biblical Christianity thus becomes irrelevant—no, worse: It becomes the instrument of oppression.

That is why it is no surprise to see that the Episcopal Church in the USA is doing what it does best: planning to screw up the faith of its people yet further by eliminating gendered language about God from the liturgy. 

Episcopal Diocese Votes to Avoid Using 'Gendered Pronouns'
for God in Book of Common Prayer
(Christian News Network), Feb. 2018

It is pulling off the remarkable hat trick of demonstrating profound ignorance about how God-language works, reinforcing the denomination’s divorce from anything resembling historic Christianity, and making itself yet again into a rather insipid and irrelevant tool of the liberal political establishment whose approval it apparently craves. Added to this, we might also anticipate the multiple crimes against graceful prose and theological sanity that such linguistic abominations as “Godself,” represent and which will no doubt pervade the final product.

The Folio Society edition of the Book of Common Prayer is made to last, with high-quality paper beautifully typeset, illustrated, and bound. Its beauty reflects the content of the Prayer Book itself. Its underlying concern is not with the vicissitudes of life considered in themselves, but with those vicissitudes set within the context of a sovereign and glorious God. 

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Its religion is not the effete therapy of our age of victimhood, nor the lazy clichés of contemporary politics. It is the religion of historic Christianity, and both the Prayer Book’s form and its content reflect that. That is why it has no need to strive for relevance. 

And that is why it is good to have an edition that might still be read by my great-grandchildren in a hundred years time. Whatever else they may face in life, my descendants will still be experiencing birth, love, joy, sickness, death. And the God they worship will still be the same.

By contrast, the Episcopal Church can quite safely print its revised Prayer Book as a cheap paperback with a glued spine. Or better still, have it ring-bound. After all, who knows what demands the political class will be making for additions to or subtractions from the faith once and for all delivered to the saints by this time next week?


related article:

Monday, July 9, 2018

Psalm 146:1-10 (LXX 145:1-10) ; A beautiful chant in Romanian (Bekhit Fahim)

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Romanian landscape

Psalm 146:1-10 (LXX 145:1-10)

1. Laudă, suflete al meu, pe Domnul.
Praise ye the Lord. Praise the Lord, O my soul.

2. Lăuda-voi pe Domnul în viaţa mea, cânta-voi Dumnezeului meu cât voi trăi.
While I live will I praise the Lord: I will sing praises unto my God while I have any being.

3. Nu vă încredeţi în cei puternici, în fiii oamenilor, în care nu este izbăvire. 
Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help.

4. Ieşi-va duhul lor şi se vor întoarce în pământ. În ziua aceea vor pieri toate gândurile lor.
His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish.

6. Cel ce a făcut cerul şi pământul, marea şi toate cele din ele; Cel ce păzeşte adevărul în veac;
Which made heaven, and earth, the sea, and all that therein is: which keepeth truth for ever:

7. Cel ce face judecată celor năpăstuiţi, Cel ce dă hrană celor flămânzi. Domnul dezleagă pe cei ferecaţi în obezi;
Which executeth judgment for the oppressed: which giveth food to the hungry. The Lord looseth the prisoners:

8. Domnul îndreaptă pe cei gârboviţi, Domnul înţelepţeşte orbii, Domnul iubeşte pe cei drepţi;
The Lord openeth the eyes of the blind: the Lord raiseth them that are bowed down: the Lord loveth the righteous:

9. Domnul păzeşte pe cei străini; pe orfani şi pe văduvă va sprijini şi calea păcătoşilor o va pierde.
The Lord preserveth the strangers; he relieveth the fatherless and widow: but the way of the wicked he turneth upside down.

10. Împărăţi-va Domnul în veac, Dumnezeul tău, Sioane, în neam şi în neam.
The Lord shall reign for ever, even thy God, O Zion, unto all generations. Praise ye the Lord.

A young Orthodox nun <3

The Lord upholdeth all that fall.

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Psalm 145:14-17 (KJV)
14 The Lord upholdeth all that fall, and raiseth up all those that be bowed down.
15 The eyes of all wait upon thee; and thou givest them their meat in due season.
16 Thou openest thine hand, and satisfiest the desire of every living thing.
17 The Lord is righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works.

Why to be excited about praying "a set form of prayer"?

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Lord's Prayer

Excerpts from Evangelical Is Not Enough: Worship of God in Liturgy and Sacrament by Thomas Howard.

During my graduate studies I came upon the works of a man named Lancelot Andrewes. He was bishop successively of Ely, Chichester, and Winchester during the reign of James I in England and was James’s favorite preacher. His sermons are to preaching what filet mignon is to food. Andrewes worked out for himself a system of private prayer, which he entitled Preces Privatae (Private Prayers). He wrote it all down for himself in Greek and then in Latin. 

Somewhere I came into possession of an English translation.11 There are many forms of prayer in the book. The part that attracted my attention was the section called “Morning Prayers for a Week.” Eventually I pulled these pages carefully from the paperback edition that I owned and set them into a small black leather snap-ring notebook. 

I wanted to use them for my own prayers. That was perhaps fifteen years ago. I still use them daily. What I had found to be true of the prayers at St. Andrew’s Church, and then of the Office of Evening Prayer, I have found to be true here: the discipline enables; the structure frees

For many years I had tried, intermittently, to gird up my loins and settle into a faithful manner of daily prayer. But two difficulties always ran my efforts onto the shoals. 

First, sooner or later I found that I was neglecting them because I did not feel in the mood to pray. And second, when I did address myself to prayer, I found that I ran out of things to say. I cannot pretend that Andrewes’s order for private morning prayers has kept me steady from the moment I adopted it. But at least it has steered me away from those two sets of shoals. 

Like the worship at St. Andrew’s Church and Evening Prayer at the university chapel, it has taught me that one’s coming to God has nothing to do with how one feels. One simply makes the act of prayer. It is analogous to the Jews’ bringing their alms and sacrifices to the temple: you do it because that is what the people of God do. 

Moreover, in so doing, you discover that, far from being mere drab duty, it orders your life and undergirds it and gives it a rhythm. Any honest man will admit that prayer is indeed drab duty often, and if his inclinations are the only recourse he has to help him surmount the drabness, then things are bound to be sporadic; whereas, if he has learned to look on prayer as a plain habit, he will find that it is not so much of a struggle. 

He may have to struggle with the state of his soul often enough, but this will not bring his prayers to a halt since these are as objective a matter as were the turtle doves that Joseph and Mary brought to the Temple. 

Of course, we do not have to have a set form of prayer in order to get into the steady habit of praying. As far as I know, my father’s early morning prayers were offered extemporaneously, daily, for fifty and more years. But he was an extraordinary man. I myself found, early in the game, that I could not depend on my own resources in the matter. 

I have had enthusiastic friends who have urged that the Holy Ghost can keep us always fresh and eager. I daresay He can, but I know very few Christians who are kept unflaggingly fresh and eager by the Holy Ghost. 

What we know of Him would give us reason to suppose that He is the architect of order, and that props and helps and disciplines are His ordinary methods, just as natural processes are the forms under which He continually brings new life out of the earth from seeds. Evangelicalism had taught me the importance of prayer and had indeed taught me to pray. It had encouraged me to pray daily. But the impression I had formed was that one was more or less on one’s own here. The Holy Ghost would inspire me, and I would be able to pray. 

Eventually I came to learn that this general line of teaching has, fairly or unfairly, been called “enthusiasm” in the Church. The general tendency is to look for direct, personal experiences from heaven and to discount external structures and aids. 

Christian history has been marked by many vigorous examples of enthusiasm: the Montanists, and the Quakers, and even the Wesleyans have all been called enthusiasts, not because they were especially tumultuous, but because their teaching stressed the notion of direct communication from God to the soul, sometimes to the exclusion of more plodding and indirect techniques. 

If the testimony of nearly everyone I have known in evangelicalism may be at all credited, then I am not alone in having found the practice of daily prayer excessively difficult to maintain over long periods without any help. 

Lancelot Andrewes supplied help to me here. In his order for private prayers, each of the seven days of the week follows the same general sequence, but the actual words that constitute the parts of the prayer differ for each morning. On Sunday, for example, he begins with “Through the tender compassions of our God, the Dayspring from on high hath visited us.” 

Friday has, simply, “Early shall my prayer come before Thee.” The overwhelming majority of what Andrewes includes in his order for prayer is drawn from Scripture, although he also draws on ancient Jewish texts, Greek texts from the early Church, and the writings of the Fathers. The simple opening statement for each day locates the prayer. It places it starkly before God, on a firmer footing than what is to be found in the bog of one’s own immediate concerns or feelings. 

Then comes an act of commemoration. In this, following the seven days of Creation, one blesses God for His acts, which are recorded in Scripture as having occurred on that day On Sunday one blesses God for light, created on the first day-Glory be to thee, O Lord, glory be to thee, which didst create the light and lighten the world.” 

After enumerating a great number of the blessings that come to us by virtue of light including “the intellectual light, that which may be known of God, It has also taught me, or begun to teach me, that prayer is far from being a matter of just my own efforts. I stand with an innumerable company of intercessors before the Mercy Seat in behalf of all men everywhere. 

Prayer has gone up unceasingly from righteous men since the beginning of time, like the smoke of incense. If I cannot yet conceive of myself as being a very exemplary member of that company, I may at least aspire to be one of the men who prays daily for all men. 

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Σύμβολο της Πίστεως (Nicene Creed)
Πιστεύω ες να Θεόν, Πατέρα, Παντοκράτορα, ποιητν ορανο κα γς, ρατν τε πάντων κα οράτων.

Κα ες να Κύριον ησον Χριστόν, τν Υἱὸν το Θεο τν μονογεν, τν κ το Πατρς γεννηθέντα πρ πάντων τν αώνων· φς κ φωτός, Θεν ληθινν κ Θεο ληθινο, γεννηθέντα ο ποιηθέντα, μοούσιον τ Πατρί, δι' ο τ πάντα γένετο.
Τν δι' μς τος νθρώπους κα δι τν μετέραν σωτηρίαν κατελθόντα κ τν ορανν κα σαρκωθέντα κ Πνεύματος γίου κα Μαρίας τς Παρθένου κα νανθρωπήσαντα.
Σταυρωθέντα τε πρ μν π Ποντίου Πιλάτου, κα παθόντα κα ταφέντα.
Κα ναστάντα τ τρίτ μέρα κατ τς Γραφάς.
Κα νελθόντα ες τος ορανος κα καθεζόμενον κ δεξιν το Πατρός.
Κα πάλιν ρχόμενον μετ δόξης κρναι ζντας κα νεκρούς, ο τς βασιλείας οκ σται τέλος.
Κα ες τ Πνεμα τ γιον, τ κύριον, τ ζωοποιόν, τ κ το Πατρς κπορευόμενον, τ σν Πατρ κα Υἱῷ συμπροσκυνούμενον κα συνδοξαζόμενον, τ λαλσαν δι τν προφητν.
Ες μίαν, γίαν, Καθολικν κα ποστολικν κκλησίαν.
μολογώ ν βάπτισμα ες φεσιν μαρτιν.
Προσδοκώ νάστασιν νεκρν.
Κα ζων το μέλλοντος αἰῶνος.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Beauty in the midst, which leads us unto heavenward.

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Earth has not anything to show more fair:
Dull would he be of soul who could pass by
A sight so touching in its majesty:

This City now doth, like a garment, wear
The beauty of the morning; silent, bare,
Ships, towers, domes, theatres, and temples lie
Open unto the fields, and to the sky;

All bright and glittering in the smokeless air.
Never did sun more beautifully steep
In his first splendour, valley, rock, or hill;
Ne'er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep!

The river glideth at his own sweet will:
Dear God! the very houses seem asleep;
And all that mighty heart is lying still!

--William Wordsworth, 
Composed upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802

Excerpt from Have You Noticed Beauty? by Johanna Byrkett

I have noticed that on my most exhausting days of travel or work, what I long for is Beauty. To watch the sun set and the stars creep into the sky, one by one and then in clusters. To read a story or a poem. To listen to an album straight through while I eat my dinner. To dance in my kitchen. To make food, yes, but also to group it by colour on my plate. To sit down—feet free of shoes—listening to the evensong of birds give way to cricket choruses. To listen to an audio book because I’m too tired to read anything beyond five lines.
Backyard Garden With Wooden Bench And Roses : Growing Roses In Your Garden

I have noticed that when I’m not reading much or stopping to enter into Beauty, it is then that I have no words. I cannot write. I make a poor conversationalist. I feel too tired for friends. I run and run, but it is more like a crawling car on petrol fumes. In short, I get crabby and withdrawn when I am not able to be immersed in Beauty in some form. 

Goethe explains why: there is a sense of the Beautiful which God has twined into the human soul. We are different from the animals…and the angels, and from God himself. Yet neither animals nor angels are made in God’s image, only man is. We are distinct—imaging God in our very being, in our capacity to know and to appreciate Beauty, in our cultivating and stewarding whatever things God gives to us, from children and gardens, to art and music.

I have noticed that Beauty is a gift that we get to enjoy. That we are allowed to savour the words of a poem on our tongues. That our eyes burn with the glory of a sunset or a sky on fire with meteors. That our hearts nearly break or burst in the highest swell of a song, either poignant or joy-filled. 

It is a gift to know that Beauty itself is a gift. It is a gift to know God and to be known by him. It is Beauty that leads us to praise. Beauty is our companion to draw us into worship. It is Beauty that beckons us to enter into itself and find that we are in the courts of God. Beauty leads us further up and further in.

Have you noticed?

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Hope for the Despairing Heart

Cheer up, oh, despairing heart!
When your world torn apart,
when you feel that there is no exit nor safe haven,
may the Lord deliver you,
comfort your downcast spirit and
gently carry you through.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Wrestling with Doubt But Anchored by Faith

Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809-1892), is one of the most quoted poets of all time (“Tis better to have loved and lost / Than never to have loved at all,” for instance). He was poet laureate during the reign of Queen Victoria.

In his forties, he published In Memoriam, A.H.H., a tribute to his very dear college friend, Arthur Hallam, who died at 22 from a stroke. He had been working on it for twenty years. It is almost like a journal that expresses his grief, inner development, doubt and subsequent faith. With Arthur he had shared many loves, including his conviction that personal honesty combined with free and open inquiry could arrive at truth. The poem expresses that love.

Today’s poem is an extract near the end of In Memoriam. In it Tennyson exposes those who condemn doubters while suppressing or demonizing their own doubts.  He shows, instead, that a mature and balanced faith is not one  that has refused agony and wrestling but one that has been through them and grown from the experience. Many follow the easy path of attaching to some superficial, shiny golden calf. Alternatively, he has known the darkness and clouds of Sinai, as today’s Bible reading describes. (source)

You tell me, doubt is Devil-born.

I know not: one indeed I knew
In many a subtle question versed,
who touch’d a jarring lyre at first,
But ever strove to make it true:

Perplext in faith, but pure in deeds,
At last he beat his music out.
There lives more faith in honest doubt,
Believe me, than in half the creeds.

He fought his doubts and gather’d strength,
He would not make his judgment blind,
He faced the spectres of the mind
And laid them: thus he came at length

To find a stronger faith his own;
And Power was with him in the night,
Which makes the darkness and the light,
And dwells not in the light alone,

But in the darkness and the cloud,
As over Siniai’s peaks of old,
While Israel made their gods of gold,
Altho’ the trumpet blew so loud.

Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809-1892) in Memoriam, A.H.H.

Joy in Suffering

「candle light in the dark Bible」の画像検索結果

The night dews of affliction and disappointment may fall thickly upon it – the storms of sorrow may beat heavily against it – the winds of adversity may howl fearfully around it – but, like those fabled lamps of which we read, that, century after century, illumined the sepulchers of the east – burning with calm and steady light, amid the desolation of all earthly things – unchanged and unextinguishable; so does this joy – this living spark struck off from the great source of light and life – outlive all deaths, all changes, until it accompanies the freed spirit of the believer in whom it dwells, back to those abodes of joy from whence it came.

--John MacDuff, The Throne of Grace, 1865.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Dear Homeschooling Parents, Please Be Aware Of the Dangers of the Hebrew Roots Movement!

The Homeschooling Pool

There is another group of Christians that I’ve observed that are susceptible to the errors in the Hebrew Roots Movement – that is the Homeschooling community.  We (and I include my family in that community) tend to be an independent lot, overall.  We tend question the status quo, question things more than the average bear, and have a tendency to be a bit counter-cultural and open to new concepts and ideas, while at the same time holding to basic traditional ideals.  

We are not afraid to embrace “unique” ways of doing things – if something isn’t working the way it’s being done, we are willing to try doing it differently.  Those qualities in and of themselves are good things, providing the flexibility that those of us who homeschool tend to build in to our daily lives of educating our children at home.

However those qualities can be a double edged sword if a family is in a place of discontent, woundedness, or rebellion in their place of worship or feels like they can’t find any place with “like-minded” believers with whom to worship.  Some prefer to “home-church”, while others find a “home fellowship” in which to worship.   

I want to be careful in how I couch this, because I don’t want to lump all home fellowships together, but understand that some home fellowships are perfect venues in which those in the Hebrew Roots/Messianic movements can (and do) introduce and promote their ideas.  Depending on how the leadership is set up (assuming there is any leadership structure or shared accountability at all), there is the potential for the teaching or “sharing” of false doctrine to slip through from families or leadership who are on “the ancient path”.

A recent discourse with one who has come out of the HRM states the case better than I can, in relation to both traditional churches and home fellowships:

I’ve seen a growing trend of well-known pastors embracing and promoting teachings of the HRM. These are pastors that are widely respected in the body of Christ for their opinions, biblical interpretations, scholarship, and spiritual discernment. So I think the church as a whole is at risk for being influenced by the HRM, because we tend to trust and embrace the teachings of those we look up to for guidance. I want to say that house churches are less susceptible to encountering false doctrine, but the truth is that even the house churches of the New Testament had to deal with it, including the false teachings of the Torah observant/HRM. The major lesson I learned in my experience with the HRM is that the yeast of the Pharisees is still alive and well, and that the teachings should be avoided, because a little leaven leavens the whole lump. Jesus’ warning to avoid their teachings is relevant for all believers, whether they fellowship within larger church settings or house churches. Since it only takes a little leaven to affect the whole lump, we all have to stand firm against it and be on guard.

In addition to the above, homeschooling families are, in their quest for good curriculum, exposed to Torah observant families on internet forums, in support groups, and even through suppliers of curriculum.  One such supplier is Heart of Wisdom, which stresses a “Hebraic approach” to educating children vs. the “Greek approach”.  While Heart of Wisdom does have some good resources to offer, as with any entity offering false spiritual teaching, where there is good, there is always that “little leaven”, as the writer quoted above notes, that you need to look for and to stand firm against.

Heart of Wisdom is very subtle in its initial presentation of the “Hebraic mindset”, but like anything, if you investigate the Heart of Wisdom website and ALL of its sister websites and forum, it is clear that it promotes the “Hebrew Roots of our faith” through and through.  One book in particular that HOW Publishing offers to homeschoolers as curriculum (and which has become very popular in the homeschooling community) is “The Family Guide to Biblical Holidays.”

From one of the critical reviews of “The Family Guide to Biblical Holidays” at Amazon:

I was extremely disappointed with this particular item. The cost of the book is not worth it. The authors claim to make efforts to educate people on the biblical feasts, but have included an immense amount of information that is rooted in cabala [Kabbalah] without addressing it as such. As a parent who purchased this book in order to supplement the teaching of Truth, I was dumbfounded by the authors lack of research concerning the roots of certain celebration practices. My own elementary school children were able to pick apart the errors in teaching and doctrinal half truths. This book should come with a warning label. If you are pursuing information on practicing biblical feasts the Jewish way: Buy. If you are interested in information on Biblical feasts: Walk! Just as there are many pagan traditions in “Christian” holidays, there are just as many pagan traditions in the “Jewish” holidays. Buyer be aware.

There is a subtle yet consistent undertone of the use of Kabbalah and its related practice of Gematria in the Hebrew Roots Movement/Messianic Judaism as the reviewer refers to above.  [More can be learned about this connection at “Doublemindedness in the Hebrew Roots Movement – The Use of Kabbalah and Gematria”.  Highly Recommended.]

One mom relayed to me that in the homeschooling support group her family belongs to her family is the only family who is not Torah observant.  The families that have taken on Torah observance all have the “Family Guide to Biblical Holidays” in common.  The really interesting thing is that these families bought the book as curriculum to learn about Biblical Feasts and came away feeling commanded to keep not only the Feasts, but to become completely Torah observant.  There is no such command to the Body of Christ to keep the Law or the Feasts.

The realities of the shortcomings in the Church today prime many for the “getting back to the way early believers worshipped” and the “getting back to the Hebrew/Jewish roots of our faith” that the HRM claims to offer.  Teachers in the HRM systematically dismantle elements of both the modern and traditional Church (not without justification in some cases), replacing what they have torn down with a house of contradictions and doctrine woven in such a way that it can be difficult to discern its error.  

Those in the Church who are unsatisfied, immature in their faith, disgruntled, wounded, or rebellious are bit by bit led from the error they may be experiencing in their current circumstance into compounded error in the HRM which has been dressed up in the seeming “authenticity” of Messianic Christianity.

I think the point needs to be made here that there are healthy churches out there!  It may take patient searching and lots of visiting, but they do exist!  I can say this with confidence, as our family is blessed to be in a healthy church.  Whether one finds a healthy church or home fellowship is partly determined by the attitude of one’s heart.  

If you’re looking for the “perfect” church with “like-minded” believers, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment and discontent.  There is no such place, as the Church is made up of imperfect believers – us.  Look for a healthy church, not a perfect one.  Focus on the Gospel being of primary importance, along with the core, indisputable matters of the faith.  Measure any church or home fellowship by those standards and by the commands of Jesus to love God and love others, and within those parameters you will find a healthy place in which to gather, worship, and serve with fellow Christians.

2) Establish the Need

In part, because of some real and deserved discontent in much of the modern Church today, the Hebrew Roots Movement makes use of that discontent in such a way as to establish something that has the appearance of authenticity.  In effect, they validate one’s discontent (and/or immaturity, woundedness, or rebellion – whether or not it is justified) and provides a possible explanation for one’s unhappiness in Christianity – that one is in fact being “drawn back to the Hebraic Roots of one’s faith”.

The HRM systematically tears down the orthodox (small ‘o’) tenets of biblical Christianity as being “Hellenized” , then systematically rebuilds an entirely new perspective on Scripture, based on “Hebraic” systems of thought, language, and customs.  [You can read more information about about the true influences of Hellenism on both Judaism (both BCE and CE) and the early Church at “Hebrew Roots Movement – The Issue of “Hellenization” here at JGIG.  Highly Recommended.]  

The result of HRM teachings regarding Hellenistic vs. Hebraic thought and perspective is the significant minimizing of the Gospel and an inappropriate elevation of the Torah and “being a part of” Israel.  The simplicity of the Gospel for all tongues, tribes, and nations fades and eventually disappears under the weight of the Laws and traditions required by the “Hebraic mindset.”

The HRM establishes a further need for their belief system by framing the Church of the last 2000 years as being rooted in paganism.    No facet of the Church is exempt – from Catholicism (which is indeed steeped in extra-biblical doctrine and practices) to Protestantism to Evangelicism to Fundamentalism, etc. – all are indicted by the HRM as at least being influenced by and at worst practicing paganism in one form or another throughout the ages.  In Sheep Wrecked’s Testimony, one portion in her story brought tears to my eyes the first time I read it:

That first yesod class broke my heart.  I truly believed that I “had missed it”. I completely fell apart in the car on the way home, weeping non-stop for two days in repentance for the “error” that I had been taught my whole life in “church/babylon”.  I totally believed I had found the “truth” I had been searching for.  I was elated, but very misled, as I immersed myself in a new life style and new theology which systematically worked against me.  It eventually became a burden and a yoke that I could not bear.  I was absorbing another Gospel and it weighed so heavily on me that I could physically feel it.  I did not comprehend then why there was an underlying feeling of weariness and oppression that I could not shake. 

A  number of books feed into the Hebrew Roots Movement’s cycle of paranoia, including “Fossilized Customs” by Lew White, “Come Out of Her My People” by CJ Koster, “Too Long in the Sun” by Richard Rives, and the grand-daddy of them all, “The Two Babylons”, by Alexander Hislop – the book which is the basis for many modern books on paganism in the Church.  While there is some truth to some of their charges, the points on paganism found in these books and books like them are taken way too far by the HRM.  

They inflate the influence of pagan practices  and Hellenistic culture as well as exercise poor scholarship in research [on purpose?], linking historical events (where their historical accuracy is tenuous at best in many cases) to practices in the Church that really have no basis in reality at all.  A good resource examining the claims of the above titles is the book, The Babylon Connection? by Ralph Woodrow, who came out of a Law-keeping lifestyle many years ago.

Some in the HRM leadership even see themselves as being the completion of the Reformation!  One Hebrew Roots leader wrote me an email (which I may post someday, just for fun) part of which stated:

“What about those of us who see our Messianic faith as continuing the work of a John Calvin or a John Wesley?”

My response:
“I would say that some serious re-evaluation of your belief system on your part is in order.  Calvin and Wesley sought to bring the Gospel back to the simplicity that God intended for it to have.  In my opinion, the HRM, wherever you place yourself on that spectrum, seeks to complicate the Gospel, removing or minimizing the completed work of the Cross and adding the works of man.  Calvin and Wesley, I dare say, would not approve.” 

3)  Fill that need

Once you establish a need, you need to fill that need, or provide a solution.  Once someone had been convinced that Christianity has been in error – indeed that it is a false religion according to some in the HRM, false teachers can swoop in with their “secret knowledge” and “hidden insight”.  This goes for ALL false belief systems, by the way, not just the Hebrew Roots Movement.

The Hebrew Roots/Messianic movement determines to fill that  need with the efforts of man to keep a Covenant we, in Christ, are no longer under.  And Christians who become convinced that they’ve been “doing it all wrong” for so long are perfect targets.  They feel a need to “make up” for their error.  It’s a perfect set-up for the introduction to a works-based belief system.

Yep, everything will fall into place when you start to keep Torah.  Special insight, hidden knowledge, fascinating culture and a systematic re-working of the doctrines that that those in the HRM have convinced you are false, needing replacement from the context of the “Hebraic mindset”.

There are some consistent, key ways that I’ve observed how the HRM pulls this off:

* They systematically tear down the cultural Church, not without some cause, but deftly mix valid criticisms with invalid ones, bringing about the idea that the entire Church has been in error for all but the first century.  Not only that, but they will try to convince you that the “true” religion of the early believers in Christ is a perpetuation of the practice of Torah observance, and not “Christianity” at all!  To pull this off, they do one or all of three things:

1.) They will try to convince you that the belief system that you have been subjected to since the first century has been “Hellenized”, stripping “true first century beliefs” from their origins.  They will tell you that you engage in pagan sun worship and idolatry, not to mention blatant disobedience to God’s Law.  For an in-depth study dealing with these accusations by the HRM, refer to the post, “Hebrew Roots Movement – The Issue of ‘Hellenization’ “.

2.) They will re-define the New Covenant, changing it into a “renewed” Covenant, which is clearly communicated in the New Testament to be a NEW Covenant.  Refer to the post, “Hebrew Roots Movement – New Covenant or ‘Renewed’ Covenant” for an overview of the HRM position and an in-depth word study proving the “renewed” position to be false.

3.) They will try to convince you that though a “New Covenant” exists, we are not yet under that New Covenant, and as as such, we must still “keep” Old Covenant Law.  They will mis-use prophecy and the words of Jesus to support their position – always taken out of context and/or will mis-use the original language of a text in effort to support their error.

* They distort the biblical concept of repentance.  For the redeemed believer in Christ, when we repent, we recognize our sin and Who Jesus is, and turn to the Grace of God and the completed work of Christ Jesus at the Cross for our salvation.  To one in the HRM, repentance means to turn away from their sin and toward the Law of God, turning back to the keeping of Law with Jesus as the “Safety Net” for when they fail.  The Biblical definition of repentance is to have a change of mind and heart, recognizing our sin, recognizing God’s Provision in Christ, and letting the Holy Spirit renew us, resulting in the changing of our behavior.  For articles exploring this issue more, see “Hebrew Roots Movement – The Perversion of Repentance“, “Repentance For Those In Christ: A One Time Thing or an Every-Time-We-Sin Thing?“, and “Hebrew Roots Movement – Hebrews 10, Willful Sin, No More Sacrifice, and Judgement, Oh My!

* Sanctification and the maintaining of their “salvation” is not in the hands of God, but in their own hands, dependant on their keeping of the Laws of the Old Covenant.  Most in the HRM will try to deny this reality in their belief system, but if you systematically take each of their beliefs and see where they take you, there is no denying that their system of belief is upheld not by the Grace of God, but by the works of man.  I posed the following questions to some HRMers on a forum recently:

Under the Old Covenant, certain laws applied to certain people (encompassing all Israelites, then sub-groups such as male, female, priests, for example). These laws were not optional. If there were laws that applied to you, you had to do ALL of them. To not do them was punishable by expulsion from the community of Israel or death, as was called for in the Law. 

Makes one wonder . . . most in the HRM say that keeping the Law is not required for salvation and that we should keep the Law because we love God and want to please Him . . . yet if Israel did not keep the Law, there was punishment – either expulsion from Israel or death. In that context, does that mean that we can “lose” our salvation for not obeying Mosaic Law? If we “become Israel”, and we fail to “keep” the Law are we then expelled from the community of Israel or worse yet, is the second death re-imposed on us as “law-breakers”? HRMers will say that “oh no, your salvation is not dependent on keeping the Law”, yet the Law itself does not support that claim. You can’t have Law without enforcement. The two go hand in hand. 

One needs to first determine what law one is under before one determines to “do” it. 

In the era after the completed work of Christ, are we under the Old Covenant, the Law of Moses given at Sinai, or the New Covenant, the Law of Christ, the Law of Love, forged in the blood of Christ?

4)  Overcoming objections

The people I’ve come across that were once involved with but are now out of the Hebrew Roots Movement/Messianic Judaism or its sects are not unintelligent people.  As a rule, I have found that their number one goal is to worship God in a manner pleasing to Him, unencumbered by human traditions. (For an ironic twist regarding this desire, see “Doublemindedness in the Hebrew Roots Movement – The Use of Kabbalah and Gemetria”. )

Questions proselytes have had have been addressed with “special knowledge” and “hidden insights” as those in the leadership and laity of the HRM rattle on about linguistics, church history, and the re-working of pivotal doctrines.  Following is a glossary definition I put together to describe one method used by those in the HRM to establish superiority as they endeavor to answer questions/objections:  

Hebrew-isms – Okay, I made that one up.  “Hebrew-isms” is a word I’m putting here to describe how those in the Hebrew Roots Movement choose to speak and communicate matters of theological thought.  Using the Sacred Name(s) exclusively (YHWH/Yeshua), would be one example,  using the Hebrew “Ruach HaKodesh” instead of using English to refer to the Holy Spirit, another. 

Leadership will also use Hebrew instead of English when referencing Bible passages from their own “translations” (see “Hebrew Roots Movement – Messin’ With the Word”) as will laity when exposed long enough to their new paradigm.  The book of “Matthew” becomes “Matityahu”, “John” becomes “Jochanan”, etc.  “Brit Hadashah” is a big one, which means “Renewed Covenant”, not “New Covenant”. [Great article detailing the language errors the HRM engages in to “prove” that the Covenant is “renewed” not “new” can be found HERE.]   

“Renewed Covenant” has the sense of going back to the Law, a renewing of the Old Covenant – not entering into the newness of life that the New Covenant brings.  The vernacular of the details of the Feasts is also an element, not a bad thing in itself, as the Feasts paint a powerful picture of the reality that is in Christ. 

However, all that astute language usage becomes a platform of superiority on which HRM leadership can stand upon above their “students” and on which HRM laity can stand upon above their potential “converts” as they lead them into a Hebrew Roots mindset.  The platform delivers in a couple of ways: 

1) It’s very impressive and gives one the air of superior knowledge and wisdom, enticing the hearer to place unearned and untested respect and weight in the speaker’s words.

2) It can be a diversionary tactic, distracting the hearer from the false doctrine being delivered amidst the flurry of unfamiliar language.

There comes with Hebrew-isms’ platform of superiority the prospect that the speaker does have special insight, secret knowledge, or hidden revelation, that before now, you, Joe Christian, were not privy to in the Church (Body of Christ).  Not only that, but the “truth” was purposefully hidden from you by the Church, corrupted through the ages, and you must rely on your new teachers to enlighten you.

And on all those “Hebrew-isms” they build their false doctrine.  Straight answers are hard to come by. Questions are met with questions.  While they are not prepared with a ready defense of what they believe, they are more often prepared to tear down what you believe, and then replace it with their false doctrine, leaving you nothing but a pile ofrubble to look back on if you question them again. 

You end up becoming so busy looking at the doctrinal rubble that’s been spread on the ground around you, and are so overwhelmed with the possibility that you’ve had it all wrong for so long, that you are exhausted from it all and don’t have the energy to really investigate where this “special knowledge” and “hidden insight” is truly coming from.  To the believer subjected to these techniques, they are unknowingly being beaten down, only to be “rescued” by the lies of the Enemy.

5)  Closing the “sale”

One person I know who came out of the Messianic Christian movement put it this way: “Once you’re in ‘Messy’ “, as she affectionately calls it, “you become convinced that if you don’t keep the Law, you’ll lose your salvation.”

That’s it.  That is the close of the “sale”.  Taking it beyond “If you love God, you’ll keep His commandments”, the Hebrew Roots Movement is reduced to a fear-based belief system:  If you don’t hold up your end, you will die an eternal death.  If you don’t believe me, press those in the Hebrew Roots/Messianic movements on this issue.  

If your salvation is not dependant on your keeping of the Law, then “keeping” the Law would be optional.  As conversation progresses, you’ll find that in their belief system, the “keeping” of Old Covenant Law is not optional.  And if it’s not optional, where there is law, there must be enforcement and punishment.

It’s a pretty effective close.