Tag Archives: Christianity

Thematic Bible Conference for Ethnic Reconciliation?

tbc-luke-gospel-justice-peace

The W4CAA’s annual Thematic Bible Conference in Princeton (30 June to 1 July this year) is not that big, but I have high hopes for this conference as a way to promote the Church’s ministry of reconciliation and healing for the nations. In particular, I think God can use it to train Coptic Christians to reach their Muslim neighbours from Ægypt with the gospel, and Chinese Christians to reach their Uyghur neighbours, and in so doing reconcile nations that are not at peace with each other.

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Peace between Copts and Muslim Ægyptians

In 2005, Jersey City saw a Coptic family of 4 murdered, and a local Ægyptian community once living side by side in peace, sharing Ægyptian origin and culture, was sharply divided. The murders followed close upon fights in Ægypt which had killed 20 Copts and one Muslim Ægyptian. The father who was killed in Jersey City had been involved in some fiery debates with Muslims in Internet fora. Copts strongly suspected Muslims, and Muslims who did not want to be blamed. And the Coptic community in New Jersey, particularly in Jersey City, was quite large. According to the New York Times in 2005, Copts were more than 12% of Jersey City: ‘The Census Bureau does not track religious affiliation, but both Coptic organizations and the Jersey City chapter of the Council on Arab-Islamic Relations estimate the number of Copts to be above 30,000 and the Muslims to total about 25,000, out of the city’s population of 239,000.’ Discord between Christians and Muslims in Jersey City touched at least 23% of the whole city. I suspect these wounds have often been renewed: last year, on Palm Sunday, ‘many members of the Coptic Orthodox Church of St Mark awoke to the news that people dear to them [in Ægypt] had died or were wounded simply for being Coptic Christians.’ Bombings of two Coptic churches had killed more than 40 people and injured at least 100. O Lord, Ægyptians need a peace that only thou canst give.

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As Religion News Service reported,

Dr. Mona Tantawi, a New Jersey Muslim from Egypt and a pediatrician, was profoundly moved by Copts’ reaction and sees continued attacks on Coptic churches as an attempt to destabilize Egypt.

‘The Egyptian community, Christian or not, we are the same culture,‘ she said. ’What happened was devastating, and when I look at their reaction? … They are really living out the teachings of Jesus.’

It seems the righteousness of the Copts has caused Muslims in New Jersey to give glory to God, and Jesus has commissioned the Church to also show Muslims the word of God, which is the word of everlasting life. If inductive Bible study in a context of hospitality became a way for Coptic Christians to extend peace and reconciliation to their Muslim neighbours from the same country, I know not what a powerful witness that could be in the world, a witness to the power and justice and mercy of God. If Copts in America were encouraged and equipped to show the greatest love for their Muslim neighbours, perhaps Copts in Ægypt itself would be empowered to do the same up and down the Nile. The point is not debate between Christians and Muslims. The point is not to win by the convincing arguments of man’s ingenuity. The point is for everyone to know the peace that comes from Jesus, from the word of God himself; for by his word God brings peace, and by his stripes we are healed.

Peace between Han Chinese and Uyghurs

Farther south, the DC area is home to America’s largest population of Uyghurs, more than Los Angeles. Several thousand Uyghurs have made their home in northern Virginia, and I know of 5 Uyghur restaurants – I ate at one of them, Queen Amannisa, on my birthday. Everyone who pays attention to Xinjiang (Chinese Turkestan and Dzungaria) knows how Han Chinese and Uyghurs have been shaken by ethnic strife. The Chinese Communist Party, fearing Salafi Islamist separatism, has clamped down even on marriages done the traditional Uyghur Muslim way; riots some years ago killed many people, and some Uyghur Salafis (modernists who do not follow a traditional madhhab) have fought for Daesh (ISIS) in Syria and Iraq. Han Chinese often fear that Uyghurs may be terrorists; Uyghurs often see Han Chinese as invaders in their homeland. At the same time, last year I saw an advertisement for an Uyghur restaurant, Dolan Uyghur Restaurant, at a Chinese supermarket. Chinese folk like Uyghur food and hospitality, and Uyghurs want their business.

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God has a reason for putting North America’s largest population of Uyghurs in the DC area. I think the next move falls to the Chinese churches in northern Virginia. It is Han Chinese Christians who have to bring Christ’s message of peace to the Uyghurs in the DC area, forming relationships with them and inviting them to see for themselves the gospel of God’s kingdom, the gospel in which Jesus Christ reconciles the nations to God and to each other. The gospel is a beautiful thing, and it is Han Chinese believers who must be God’s ambassadors of reconciliation, that the Han Chinese and the Uyghurs may be friends in the love of God.

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Decrees of the Church to Be Kept as Wisdom

common-prayer

A high churchman’s conviction that holds the old decrees and customs of the Church in high regard is not unreformed, nor among the Reformed churches is such a conviction unique to Anglicans. Thus says Girolamo Zanchi in De Religione Christiana Fides:

For I beleeve that the thinges which were decreed and received of the fathers, by common consent of them all gathered together in the name of the Lord, without anie contradiction of holie scriptures, that they also (though they bee not of equall authoritie with the scriptures) come from the Holie ghost.

He speaks similarly in his Operum Theologicorum, intended to be a Protestant ‘summa’ modelled after that of St Thomas Aquinas, in the section on the traditions of the church:

Thesis 3. Moreover, just as political laws have their origin in natural law, so, too, the traditions of the church have their origin both from the Holy Spirit (as in the case of the apostles) and from the written Word of God (as in the case of the holy bishops and synods).

[…]

Thesis 4. Therefore, as long as these traditions are either consistent with Scripture or at least not contradictory to it, they are truly the traditions of the Church and must be accepted. And we ought to obey and honor them.

Thus did the fathers of the Council of Jerusalem speak, as St Luke records by the Holy Spirit in the Acts of the Apostles:

Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law: to whom we gave no such commandment: it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us [emphasis mine], to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things; that ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well.

Therefore, such decrees received from the Holy Ghost, consonant with what he breathes out in the holy Scriptures, are also reverently to be kept until altered under the law of Scripture, and of nature, by duly appointed authority.

Decrees and recognition of adiaphora

Yet reverence for what we have received is not always simple. St Paul tells the Corinthians,

Now as touching things offered unto idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth. And if any man think that he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know. But if any man love God, the same is known of him. As concerning therefore the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one. For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many,) but to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.

Howbeit there is not in every man that knowledge: for some with conscience of the idol unto this hour eat it as a thing offered unto an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled. But meat commendeth us not to God: for neither, if we eat, are we the better; neither, if we eat not, are we the worse. But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak. For if any man see thee which hast knowledge sit at meat in the idol’s temple, shall not the conscience of him which is weak be emboldened to eat those things which are offered to idols; and through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ. Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend.

If what St Paul teaches is as true as the words of the Apostolic Decree recorded by St Luke, then the matter seems less simple than that decrees of the Church should be obeyed religiously, as a matter of religion strictly. To acknowledge this complexity we are forced all the more if, as historians believe, 1 Corinthians was written a few years after the Apostolic Decree was sent out. Here, the Council of Jerusalem’s decree to abstain from meats (i.e., in today’s English, foods) offered to idols is not the basis of St Paul’s argument at all, though he should know of it. Instead, he treats an idol as nothing in itself: As concerning therefore the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world. Thus, that some food has been sacrificed to idols is also nothing in itself: it is the weak conscience that is defiled by eating what has been offered to idols. But meat commendeth us not to God: for neither, if we eat, are we the better; neither, if we eat not, are we the worse. The matter in itself St Paul as adiaphoron, a thing indifferent.

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But it makes little sense that a decree recorded many years after in Acts should be nothing to St Paul writing to the Corinthians. After all, the Council of Jerusalem was summoned in the first place because of his disputation against Judaizers in the Church, and at this council he and Barnabas declared what miracles and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them. The letter promulgating the Apostolic Decree was sent with them at least ‘unto the brethren which are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia’, and there is no reason to suppose that the decree’s compass would have excluded the Gentiles of Corinth. There is no room for doubt that St Paul knew of the decree and followed it in his ministry to the Gentiles.

St Paul’s way of arguing for adhærence to the Apostolic Decree, then, is instructive. Nowhere is his persuasion of this sort:

 The Church has ruled against eating what is offered to idols.
 What the Church has ruled, the Corinthians should obey.
 The Corinthians should not eat what is offered to idols.

Instead, he recognizes a basic Christian freedom but urges the Corinthians of ‘stronger’ consciences to take heed lest by any means their liberty become a stumbling-block to those of ‘weaker’ consciences. Otherwise, when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ. How St Paul argues for the Apostolic Decree is how Richard Hooker, writing fifteen centuries later, argues for the reformed Church of England’s episcopacy, liturgy, and canons. On the Apostolic Decree, he can easily be read in The Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, particularly in book 4; on the settlement of the Church of England as it then stood, throughout the eight books. ‘The end which is aimed at in setting down the outward form of all religious actions’, Hooker says, ‘is the edification of the Church.’ It is not, then, a mere matter of obedience to divinely ordained authority, as if any arbitrary judgement can be taken for that of the Holy Ghost, but a matter of submitting to an intelligible wisdom.

‘Doubtful Novelties’ in Church Names

Walker Rumble, in a printing history series, tells us about great Episcopalian printer Daniel Berkeley Updike. About names of churches he says,

Berkeley Updike and Harold Brown thought Episcopalians named and dedicated their churches inappropriately and in a slipshod manner. Nomenclature became thoughtless and frivolous, and things got worse with spreading evangelical congregations. According to Updike and Brown, ‘the names of our Lord, and of the Apostles and Saints of the New Testament’ – traditional sources – were ‘quite sufficient’. Names such as ‘Heavenly Rest’ or ‘House of Prayer’ were as ‘meaningless’ as ‘Precious Blood’ or ‘Bread of Life’. These were ‘fanciful names’. If we demand variety, ‘let us have at least no doubtful novelties.’

Looking at you, c4so diocese. With a diocese name like that, how can you avoid frivolous names for parish churches?

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But Chinese churches should also take note. Such names as Mr Updike cited are not out of the ordinary for a Chinese church, and their frivolous novelty is no less than it was in 1892, the year that he and Harold Brown published On the Dedications of American Churches. Many evangelical Chinese churches, trying to signal their orthodox evangelical credentials, have chosen novelties to shout their decency, and in so doing have negated their own orthodoxy.

It is far better, as Mr Updike says, to take ‘the names of our Lord, and of the Apostles and Saints of the New Testament’ – among whom, I take it, he includes saints who are not mentioned in the pages of New Testament, but who lived and died in the New Testament. It is no novelty, after all, to name a church after a local martyr or a saint from another place whose influence is felt as far as the church to be named. Thus might a church in Edinburgh be named after St Cuthbert, who lies buried in Durham, or a church in Vancouver’s Chinatown after St Robert Morrison, translator of the Scriptures into Chinese. These are names that concretely draw the Christian’s heart to the life of Christ, or to his life in a particular saint.

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The Cathedral Church of St John the Evangelist, Hong Kong.

The more our churches seek to differentiate ourselves from the whole work of the Holy Ghost on earth, by taking vain names, the more we separate ourselves from the Church. May the Lord’s blessing rest upon the churches devoted to the glory of his Name.

Introduction to Family Devotions

Reproduced below is the introduction to Family Devotions, from the Book of Common Prayer: With prayers at the communion, from bishops Taylor, Ken, and Beveridge, compiled by Thomas Stephen in 1841. Since this Mr Stephen was also the author of The Confession of Faith of the Church of England in the Thirty-nine Articles, and in the piece below refers to the prayer of ‘the Reformed Catholic Church’, we can well be assured of his commitment to the scriptural piety that is the standard of the Church of England.

* * *

An established religion is as necessary and useful in a family, which is a little kingdom, as in the state. In both, the voluntary system is pernicious, and will not be found to work well; for what is left to the good pleasure of every man’s own discretion will perhaps be left entirely undone. The learned and pious Dr. Doddridge has very justly remarked – ‘that, if any had rather that a family should be prayerless than that a well chosen form should be gravely and solemnly read in it, I think he judges as absurdly as if he would rather see them starving to death, than fed out of a dish whose materials or shape are disagreeable to him.’ Many, from early prejudice, object to forms of prayer; and many, on the other hand, are incapable of conducting their family devotions without a form. Set forms of prayer have many advantages; but, of all forms, the Book of Common Prayer is incomparably the best. Eloquence is a gift of God which few men possess; neither is it necessary in divine worship. Aaron was a most eloquent man, and had the gift of a fine and ready utterance; yet Moses, who was ‘slow of speech and of a slow tongue’, was appointed to instruct him what to say. It is not, therefore, eloquence, but faith and repentance, with obedience and humility, that are necessary in our devotions. Continue reading

A Reply to OrthodoxPolitics on ChristBol

In response to my post defending an irenic approach to Christian -Bol (particularly of the National Bolshevik variety), the author of the Orthodox Christian Politics blog has commented,

While I like some elements of Nazbol, there are elements of both National Socialism and Communism that are contrary to Christianity. With National Socialism, it is usually very aggressive, rather than following the principle of just war. It also has a very centralized system, violating the principle of subsidiarity. In terms of Communism, while it does a lot of good in helping the poor. It also does mass redistribution of property, but private property is a right in Christianity.

First, I shall note that National Bolshevism, despite the common nickname NazBol, is not directly related to Hitler’s National Socialism, and its exponents have never claimed ideological descent from National Socialism. The resemblance or convergence between the two, historically, was mostly in the general context of German nationalism; National Bolshevism, however, was part of the Conservative Revolutionary milieu and not of the National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP). Indeed, Ernst Niekisch, who may be considered the father of National Bolshevism, saw Hitler as ineffectual opposition to the bourgeois Versailles powers and therefore opposed him. Nevertheless, with a view to patriotic ideology’s dialectical development, I think it useful to answer some of the objections that the Orthodox Christian Politics author has expressed, so I shall not limit my remarks to the matter of Bolshevism.

Second, as I have noted in my ‘Defence of Christian -Bol’, it is with some ironic distance in the first place that I take up the name of National Bolshevik. I am not a German like Ernst Niekisch; nor am I a Russian like Eduard Limonov and Aleksandr Dugin; nor am I even of Europæan descent. I am a Chinaman, and my perspective naturally differs from that of the average Western dissident against contemporary liberalism.

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With those caveats, what follows is my reply to the Orthodox Christian Politics author’s comment:

* * *

The problems you posit for a Christian’s appropriating National Bolshevism are not insuperable, and I think as Christians we are free to take what’s healthy from movements that are not explicitly Christian, or even profess themselves opposed to Christianity as actually practised, under the judgement of holy Scripture.
Continue reading

Anglican Devotion in the Family

This post is not an original, but a reproduction of a piece by the Rev. Canon Arthur Middleton, Emeritus Canon of Durham.

A bishop’s concern

In his biography, Robert Nelson recorded that before he died, Bishop George Bull (1634–1710) thought he might send his clergy a circular letter, to recommend to them some methods for promoting virtue and piety in his diocese. He died before it was sent. He wanted to promote the salvation of souls committed to his care by an increase of piety and virtue. ‘The first thing therefore that I would recommend to you, and which I do earnestly exhort you to, is to apply yourselves with great diligence to establish the practice of family devotion in all the families of your respective parishes. I need not prove to you … that nothing helpeth more to keep up a sense of religion in the minds of men, than a serious, reverent, and constant performance of this necessary duty; whereby both the glory of God is much advanced, and many blessings do also accrue to those who in this manner daily adore and praise their Creator, the lover of souls.’ He goes on to recommend some small and cheaply priced books, which explain and press this duty and include forms for the performance of it. The importance of family devotions cannot be over-estimated though what a momentous task this seems in the twenty-first century, yet fifty years ago the Roman Catholic Church in this country was engaged in a mission to their members which had the catchphrase, ‘The family that prays together stays together.’
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The Anxiety of the Chinaman

Lu Xun, A Madman’s Diary.

Lu Xun, A Madman’s Diary.

Why do the Chinese always call others lazy? Wrapped up in this crass rhetoric, we seem indifferent to the suffering of others. The Westerner hears our words and sees our conduct, and he acknowledges to himself that he simply cannot understand. We have always been creatures of subtlety, inscrutable, and the Westerner is able only to ascribe our strange behaviour to this ineluctable racial essence. But in fact our attitude is quite intelligible with some empathy, even if Westerners cannot share this attitude. This posture of ours is of a piece with our recent and ongoing struggle with the modern West.

In the mid-nineteenth century, the subjects of the Son of Heaven, the people who stood closest to the spiritual pole of the world, the nexus of heaven and earth, had never suffered domination by a non-central (i.e. non-Sinitic) power without doing what Greece had done to Rome: Græcia capta ferum victorem cepit. Nevertheless, we had twice in a single millennium been ruled by northern barbarians, the Mongols (1271–1368) and then the Manchus (1644–1911), both of whom had kept us in an inferior caste rather than assimilating fully to our superior culture. When the Western powers came barging in, we were still ruled by the Manchu dynasty. To then be forced by thoroughly non-Sinitic powers to be one nation among many, rather than the source of all civilization with the imperial Son of Heaven at our head, was the last straw. It was the toppling of a sacred order whose sanctity had never been seriously violated.

When we suffered foreign insult in the nineteenth century, insult that continued into the twentieth, some of our intellectuals promoted social Darwinism as a way of recovering national prestige, and most of us tried very hard to imitate the dominating success of the Western nations we envied, especially by playing up technocracy. If Japan was playing that game, such a people at the edge of the world could not be winning at our expense except by our own decadence. If there was something fundamentally unsound about us, we nevertheless were Heaven’s elect, living where Heaven’s blessing came to earth, endowed with the gifts of civilization. Any failure, therefore, was due to laziness and other kinds of moral weakness. We believed in palingenesis.

Whether we stayed in China or moved on to other lands – lands of mastery – our destiny was the same. Some of us had no God and felt ourselves elect all the same. But God is free, and God is the one who chooses; he is the one who elected to send the only-begotten Son of Heaven to die in our stead, that believing we might live. He alone is our hope. It is that Elect man who gathers up all things in himself; it is that Elect man in whom the Chinese nation must believe; it is that Elect man in whom we are truly the elect of God. We cannot forsake God and wonder lama sabachthani: why hast thou forsaken me? In the end, national destiny is not about industry, nor is it about flesh improving flesh. All things will die. What remains is, Will we be raised?

Mythbusters: Christianity is Anti-Science

[I deny from the outset any intent on my part to infringe on copyright, trademarks or anything with the use of the name.]

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ev. Dr. Peter Mullen writes in The Daily Reckoning; the myths are bunk. Christianity is not opposed to science and rationality. As he says, the famed Galileo Galilei, known for his supposed persecution by the church, wrote,

The book of nature is a book written by the hand of God in the language of mathematics.

And lest there be any doubt that this is not just the characteristic of scientists who “happen” to be Christian (of whom I hope to be a follower of Christ who happens to be a scientist), I leave you with a quotation against irrationality and superstition, from St Augustine:

Heaven forbid that God should hate in us that by which he made us superior to the animals! Heaven forbid that we should believe in such a way as not to accept or seek reasons, since we could not even believe if we did not possess rational souls.

As Iron Sharpens Iron (Intellectually)

I am still learning to cut to the chase when commenting on people’s blogs, but I am also pleased that there are people who force me to give clear, to-the-point explanations by continuing to question until the formulation is satisfactory.

Do you ever experience this pleasure?