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1167Tuesday's Belfast blog - apostasy

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  • Jon Kennedy
    Aug 5, 2014
      Belfast blog - Jon Kennedy
      The Jonal, Jon Kennedy's blog on the Nanty Glo, Pa. Home Page.
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      JONAL ENTRY 1562 | TUESDAY, AUGUST 5 2014

      Today's Scripture: Therefore gird up your minds, be sober, set your hope fully upon the grace that is coming to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct; since it is written, "You shall be holy, for I am holy." And if you invoke as Father him who judges each one impartially according to his deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile. You know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your fathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. He was destined before the foundation of the world but was made manifest at the end of the times for your sake. Through him you have confidence in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.
      Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere love of the brethren, love one another earnestly from the heart. You have been born anew, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; for "All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord abides for ever." That word is the good news which was preached to you.
      So put away all malice and all guile and insincerity and envy and all slander. Like newborn babes, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up to salvation; for you have tasted the kindness of the Lord.
      Come to him, to that living stone, rejected by men but in God's sight chosen and precious; and like living stones be yourselves built.
      — From St. Peter's first universal letter, chapters 1 and 2,
      from today's Orthodox lectionary readings.
      See the homiletical thought below. «

      Today's diary - life in Northern Ireland

      The commemoration of the beginning of World War I at St. Anne's Cathedral last evening was a solemn, dignified, and moving event, again re-enforcing my earlier impression that the Brits do patriotism, pagaentry, and civil religion well and take it more seriously than we Americans do. The cathedral was full. Of course this is a case where having an established church counts. Though representatives of Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, and Jewish communities in Belfast gave reflections and some prayers as part of the program, because the Anglican church is the official church, there was no doubt about who was behind the event and in charge of the solemnity; Trinitarian prayers ending in Jesus' name were not slighted in deference to the guests of other faiths.
      The highlight of the ceremonies was the lighting of the candles shown above. The single candle on a table in the center of the choir was lit by Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, in memory of all the casualties of the war in all of Ireland (all of it at that time being part of the British empire). The open book in the background is a list of all the names of those Irish casualties. The five candles in the inset were lit by members of the Cadet Corps, an organization for high school age youth in the UK, one for each of the five years of the war.
      Below, members of the Sea Cadets stand in two rows as an honor guard as the congregation leaves after the program.

      Today has been mostly rainy under heavy cloud cover. And thus far, August has been noticeably cooler than July, more reminiscent of September (in Pennsylvania, not California) than the hottest days of summer, which one local person told me to expect in August. «
      A closer look
      Formerly "In the news"; links to news, features, and opinion pieces. See Caveat, below.
      On the verge of extinction, Iraq's Christians need help to survive
      Report: Number of Orthodox Christians in Ireland doubled in five years
      Video: Compilation of reports drives home the seriousness of Ebola epidemic
      For Middle East Christians, past and present collide with violence
      New York Times reporter reveals secular left's anti-Christian strategy
      Ex-Marine freed from Mexico prison, back with his family in United States
      Anglican prelate asks Orthodox, Catholics, do not abandon unity talks
      July poll found 53 percent of Americans disapprove of Obamacare
      US President trying a new tactic with press in light of lost public support
      Christian worldview
      (This department alternates with Writing stuff)
      Several evangelical Christians I follow on Google+ have recently posted video clips of Pope Francis speaking against the teaching that being a Christian is primarily an individual matter of deciding to follow Christ. Such preaching strikes many evangelicals as fighting words, an attack on their core idea that individuals have to be "born again" one by one and come into a personal relationship with God through Jesus, and perhaps (as the post-ers claimed) proof of apostasy (departure from the faith of the New Testament) on Rome's part. This, in turn, feeds into the teaching of many in Protestantism that the Pope is the anti-Christ and Catholicism is quickly leading the majority of professing Christians into the wrong side of the apocalypse.
      I suspect that the Pope, an Argentinean who has spent his life in Latin America where Pentecostal evangelicalism is making strong advances against Catholic hegemony, was trying to rally his church's flock to resist the lure of an "individualized" gospel, and consider the difference in the understanding of what the church is that an evangelical Protestant approach to faith entails. But as I replied to one of the post-ers, though I have no dog in this fight (we Orthodox have no Pope any more than Protestants do), I know the Catholic Catechism defines saving faith as a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ and I think the Pope is still Catholic. If so, the real problem here is a failure to communicate. And the communication breaks down over the two sides' different understandings of what the church is or at least what they understand the "other side" thinks it is. And as my frequent contacts with Catholics through cross-community activities here in Northern Ireland has assured me that most Catholics, at least in church leadership, probably do have a fairly accurate understanding of what evangelicals consider "the church" to be, that should probably be amended to "what one side thinks the other believes."
      Catholics believe that the truest expression of the church that Christ instituted at the Last Supper and which the Holy Spirit established on Pentecost is the Roman Catholic Church. Orthodox believe that the fulness of the church then and thus instituted is the Orthodox Church which has had no significant alteration of its beliefs and practices since around the fifth century (and even the ones before that just better defined it without changing it). Protestants generally, and evangelicals in particular, believe the "true" church is "the invisible church," the church whose members are truly known only by God, and thus they believe that the individual committment is what it's all about.
      But Catholics and Orthodox, though we may even say we consider the "invisible church" doctrine unbiblical and silly, also believe that when all the clutter is cleared away, we hold it, too. We all believe that there are some people who participate in "church life" but have no real faith, but go along for reasons of their own (their marriage, their parents' expectations, their standing among their friends, the church is their main or only source of social life, etc.). Since we have no way of identifying them as goats and separating them from the sheep (the true believers)—only God can do that and we are not even to try—we actually are saying that the differences we can't see with the naked eye (which is what Protestants call "the invisible church") will be the ones that will matter on judgment day.
      Conversely, those who say that to be a Christian or to be saved is a matter of being a member of the church, we mean being a member of the church as it is known by God alone, not the outward church that is a hotbed of wheat and tares growing together, awaiting His threshing.
      So I don't think the Pope meant to attack the new birth or personal relationship with God through Christ and His work on the cross and His resurrection. I think he merely wanted to encourage Catholics to understand what their church means by "the church" and why they should not glibly set that aside. «
      Today's video
      How to get leaner cuts of beef (thanks to Barb Hakanen for posting).
      Today's quotes
      He alone loves the Creator perfectly who manifests a pure love for his neighbor.
      — The Venerable Bede «
      . . . whatever else the religious life may be, it is the fountain of self-knowledge and disillusion, the safest form of psychoanalysis.
      — C.S. Lewis «
      Homiletical thought: Was Peter making a play on his own name, the rock, in referring to Jesus as the living stone and calling us to see ourselves as living stones ourselves, as chips off the block, as it were? Holiness, separation from our former way of life, setting ourselves apart from the vulgar world to be vessels of the grace of God, is his theme. Having been born anew, how then shall we live? That's the message he gives his readers, the church from time immemorial. «
      §     §     §
      Jon R. Kennedy, C. S. Lewis Writer in Residence