Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Enter, and Sign In Please

My fan tributes to What's My Line are elsewhere but an appreciation for brilliance however employed requires me to honour this pitch-perfect account of September 11, 1955, the day God appeared on What's My Line. If you don't remember the show you had better move on now. Credit: Matt Neumann

BYW there is at least one answer by God that is clearly wrong. What is it?


(The following is a transcription of "What's My Line?"* as it was originally broadcast on September 11, 1955, at 10 PM, by CBS.)

JOHN DALY: Panel, put on your masks... good. Now, will our Mystery Guest enter, and sign in please.

(GOD enters, signs "God" on the blackboard, and takes his seat next to JOHN DALY. There is extended applause.)

DALY: All right, let's begin with Bennett Cerf.
BENNETT CERF: Well, from the applause, you're obviously well known.

DALY: I think you could say that without fear of contradiction, Bennett.

CERF: Would someone of my generation recognize you without having to consult the various popular music periodicals?

GOD: (high, squeaky voice) Yes.

CERF: Was that a yes?

DALY: It was. Continue.

CERF: Are you someone we would recognize from films, or television?

GOD: No.

DALY: That's one down, and five dollars... Dorothy Kilgallen.

DOROTHY KILGALLEN: Mystery Guest, have you ever been the subject of a front page story in a national magazine?

GOD: Yes.

KILGALLEN: Would you say that you are a... controversial figure?

GOD: Yes.

KILGALLEN: Do you travel extensively? Are you known throughout the world?

GOD: Yes.

KILGALLEN: I can't tell if you're a man or a woman. Are you... a woman?

GOD: No.

DALY: That's two down. Robert Q. Lewis, you're next.

ROBERT Q. LEWIS: Hmm... Mystery Guest, you wouldn't happen to be a millionaire Latin playboy who was recently seen in the company of atomic bombshell Jayne Mansfield, would you?

GOD: No.

DALY: That's three down, seven to go... Arlene Francis.

ARLENE FRANCIS: Mystery Guest, I get the feeling that you're someone who possesses power as much as fame. Would that be correct?

GOD: Yes.

FRANCIS: Have you ever, or are you currently for that matter, in a position of power?

(GOD whispers in DALY's ear.)

DALY: Could you define what you mean by "power," Arlene?

FRANCIS: Well, political power, for example.

GOD: No.

DALY: That's four down. Bennett?

CERF: We know you're not a Latin millionaire playboy, but we haven't ruled out whether or not you're —well, I'll ask... Are you rich?

(GOD whispers in DALY's ear.)

DALY: Once again, I must ask you to define your terms.

CERF: Are you... a millionaire?

GOD: No.

DALY: Five down, five to go... Dorothy Kilgallen —you look puzzled.

KILGALLEN: I am. He's obviously a well-known personality, he's powerful, but he's not rich, at least not in dollars-and-cents terms... he's not an actor —aha! —Mystery Guest, are you someone who operates "behind-the-scenes?"

GOD: Yes.

KILGALLEN: Are you one of our great directors, or producers?

GOD: Yes.

DALY: Excuse me, Dorothy —did you mean film directors or producers?


DALY: Then I think the correct answer —and I'll speak for our Mystery Guest—would be a "no" —six down, four to go. Robert Q. Lewis?

LEWIS: Are you unusually strong, and fast?

GOD: Yes.

LEWIS: Would you consider yourself a great athlete?

GOD: Yes.

LEWIS: Do you have abilities far beyond mere mortal men?

GOD: Yes.

LEWIS: Are you... Willie Mays?

GOD: No.

DALY: I thought you were going to say Superman.

LEWIS: Willie Mays is Superman.

DALY: Seven down, three to go, and Arlene Francis, it's your turn.

FRANCIS: Well, he's not Willie Mays, but we haven't ruled out athlete, or professional athlete... could we have a conference?

DALY: Certainly.

(FRANCIS, LEWIS, KILGALLEN, and CERF huddle and whisper to each other.)

FRANCIS: Are you considered... tough?

GOD: Yes.

FRANCIS: Have you ever been referred to as "the Rock"?

GOD: No.

DALY: Eight down. Bennett Cerf.

CERF: Well, he's not Rocky Marciano or Rocky Graziano. That only leaves a few billion people. Mystery Guest, are you a religious person?

GOD: Yes.

CERF: Are you a religious person who is in a prominent position within the church?
GOD: Yes.

CERF: Do you have millions of followers?

GOD: Yes.

CERF: Are you... Bishop Fulton Sheen?

GOD: No.

DALY: That's nine down, one to go, and it's up to Dorothy Kilgallen.

KILGALLEN: Now I'm really confused. He's big, strong, in a position of considerable influence in the church, well-known, but controversial... powerful...

DALY: I'll throw over the last card if you don't have a question, Dorothy, we're running out of time.

KILGALLEN: Oh, all right, I'll take a wild stab... are you —God?

(There is loud applause.)

DALY: You got it! You can take your masks off now, panel.

FRANCIS: I almost guessed it, but —

KILGALLEN: We should have had it sooner.

LEWIS: And you say you're not seeing Jayne Mansfield?

CERF: Well, as someone who has millions, God, it's not all that it's cracked up to be.

DALY: God, anything you'd like to say? We've got a few seconds.

GOD: Just that I'm donating my winnings to the Boys Club of New York, and the Police Athletic League, they do such good work, and the Fresh Air Fund, which sends needy kids to camp each summer.

DALY: Anyone have a question for God before we sign off?

LEWIS: Yeah, just this: you wouldn't happen to have Jayne Mansfield's phone number, would you?

DALY: Oh, Robert... that's our show for tonight, ladies and gentlemen, until next time, this is John Daly, saying —good night.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Godly Order: ACNA and Liturgy

The following is an edited version of an article published in Praiseworthy News, the newsletter of the Church of the Good Shepherd, St, Catharines, V. 4, #3, May 2009)

The upcoming provincial assembly meeting in Texas in June at which the ACNA constitution and canons will be ratified is a reminder that we are now inevitably entering a period of liturgical reform. We are no longer tied to the Book of Alternative Services. The Green Book had to be composed so as to be consistent with liberal theology. The result was a production symptomizing the ills that would lead to the disintegration of the Anglican Church of Canada. Those of you who attended the parish conference with Bishop Malcolm Harding may remember that he quoted and spoke often of the English writer and evangelist Michael Green. Green taught at Regent College in Canada for five years and led evangelical campaigns here. Speaking here, he distinguished two groups in the church those: who prefer old wine in old skins (Book of Common Prayer adherents) and those who prefer new wine in new wineskins (contemporary language services with modern music etc. especially to reach the unchurched). Green said:
The old wine skins have an integrity. And so does the new wine. But if you try to mix the two, as the Book of Alternative Services does, the danger of splitting both is considerable. The B.A.S. does not really speak to those outside the church. I hope it was designed for them but, frankly, I think we have to confess that it is largely a failure in that respect. It doesn't speak to the outsider.... The language is infelicitous and it lacks depth...
Actually, if you look at the whole family of revisions within the Anglican communion, I'm afraid we've been saddled with about the worst of those revisions... [W]e should contend for a competent, sensitive and spiritually profound revision of the alternative services when the time comes up towards the end of the century.
The end of the century has come and gone, but the time for revision still lies ahead. I can't imagine ANiC churches still using the BAS ten years from now.

The ACNA draft Constitution and Canons contain a fundamental declaration, described as essential for membership, relating to service books:

6. We receive The Book of Common Prayer as set forth by the Church of England in 1662, together with the Ordinal attached to the same, as a standard for Anglican doctrine and discipline, and, with the Books which preceded it, as the standard for the Anglican tradition of worship.
Some people reading this declarayion may be alarmed at first glance that they are going to be forced to give up their current liturgies for the 1662 BCP, a book which they have never heard of, written in three-century-old language. That won't happen. The recognition of the 1662 book stems from the high regard held for it by the African primates, who established it as the standard of GAFCON worship. The 1662 book is regarded as more faithful to evangelical standards than some of its successors, particularly the American 1928 BCP. However there are only a handful of North American parishes who use the 1662 rite just as is. The whole of ACNA is not going to be forced to adopt the 1662 BCP any time soon.

Numerous jurisdictions have adopted modern language versions of the 1662 book, and it would certainly be consistent with the principles of ACNA to use experimentally a 1662-style modern language service. I compiled a list of modernized 1662 services in the Anglican communion and looked forward to reviewing them. Alas, all of them were disappointing. They do not really seem modern. They seem to modernize language that should have been kept, while leaving in place that language that needs to be modernized. A sample of these versions, the communion rite of the Anglican Missions in America, may be found here.

The ACNA Constitution inclusion of "the Books which preceded it" as the standard for Anglican doctrine and discipline includes both the books of 1549 and 1552, which stand near the ends of the Anglican spectrum of churchmanship, meaning that any orthodox liturgy ever used in the Anglican communion can been deemed consistent with ACNA liturgical standards.


Dumping the BAS would mean that we enter a time of liturgical experimentation. For those who were Anglican worshippers seventies, the idea of liturgical experimentation may bring back unpleasant memories. Never knowing when opening the church door what manner of sloppily photocopied trial liturgy one was going to be handed when o And we worshippers resist changes in liturgy, whatever dissatisfaction they harbour with the liturgy they have. Such resistance should not be disdained as mere obstinate opposition to change. Familiarity is one of the main reasons for having a liturgy. As C. S. Lewis says in Letters to Malcolm
I think our business as laymen is to take what we are given and make the best of it. And I think we should find this a great deal easier if what we were given was always and everywhere the same....
To judge from their practice, very few Anglican clergymen take this view. It looks as if they believed people can lured to go to church by incessant brightenings, lengthenings, abridgements, simplifications amd complications of the service.... 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....
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....The perfect church service would be one we were almost unaware of; our attention would have been on God.
(There is of course a contrary argument, for spontaneity and ecstatic expression on worship, which in a church with a heavy charismatic influence must be recognized as well. I believe it is possible to have a liturgical service which combines the best of both approaches. That is an argument for being very thoughtful about what we are doing, because it implies that there must also be a manner of service that combines the worst of both approaches, and if we approach the problem lazily we are likely to get it.)

ACNA has a Prayer Book Committee which is working away behind the scenes even as we speak. I doubt that there will ever be an ACNA prayer book in the sense of a book containing the entire set of permissible services in ACNA. To respect the diversity of uses throughout North America, it would have to be a Heinz prayer book with 57 varieties of eucharistic rite. There is more likely to be a book which collects revised and reformed versions of various rites which are liked by significant parts of ACNA.

Worshippers at the early service need only decide whether they are satisfied with the doctored version of the BCP rite found in the Green Book, wish to return to the original, or consider any of the other traditional BCPs from around the world.

More experimental action is more likely to occur at the contemporary language service. In looking for a new liturgy that is worthy of trial, we seek something that 1) expresses orthodox, and in particular evangelical theology; 2) is written in modern language; 3) is written to the best standard of liturgical language, combining precision with beauty, elevated and dignified, the product of the offering of all our talents including those of the mind. Condition 3 is the hard one. Writing liturgically in modern language is difficult. It is a challenge to use a tone and style that evokes a sense of the numinous in the language of the marketplace. We can only rely on the observation of C. S. Lewis that the best liturgical language results not from artificial attempts to be lofty in tone and extravagant in metaphor, but from "the prose of men who are intent upon their matter and write only to be understood."

In doing this research I have found that many ANiC churches are not only using non-BAS liturgies, but are using rites that are originally drawn from other sources and then edited and changed by the parish (i.e., the rector) itself as it sees fit. I compiled a list of 6 suggested sources of evangelical modern language liturgy, from Australia, England, South Africa and the United States. Unfortunately there are none I could personally recommend. Those of them that attempt to use "lofty" liturgical language fail at it. God placed no Cranmers on the committees who compiled those books

Another liturgy to be considered is the currently very popular Kenyan Rite, mentioned favourably by Bishop Malcolm when he was here. (It may be seen on the Internet:here) Worshippers who are not liturgically inclined often them dull and cold. The Kenyan Rite is not dull or cold. The rite satisfies many worshippers who have picky standards of liturgical form, while expressing in vivid language sheer joy in worshipping God. The rite has been used by a number of ANiC parishes. If we decide to enter unto experimentation, the Kenyan rite should be one of the rites used

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


As part of the reaction to the Pope's announcement of his sheep-stealing plans yesterday, Andrew Stuttaford harrumphs over at the Corner:
The Church of England is...the state church (and so it should remain), one of the essential elements, however neglected, however frequently absurd, of what England is.
And yet Stuttaford is an unbeliever, a contributor at Secular Right, the blog for purported conservatives who are militant secularists.

Is it not appropriate and necessary that the main defenders of the Establishment should increasingly be atheists and scoffers?

Monday, August 10, 2009

Upstaging the Devil

I suspect that many charismatics in ANiC do not know that J. I. Packer was a serious critic of the charismatic movement back in the day while still residing in England. Roger Steer notes no less than 10 things that Packer criticized it for: elitism, sectarianism, emotionalism, anti-intellectualism, illuminism, ‘charismania', ‘super-supernaturalism' (constantly expecting miracles at every turn), eudaemonism, demon obsession and conformism. (Church on Fire at 298-99.)

Packer changed his mind after coming to Canada, and has discussed this in a number of his books. Here's the most charming and compelling quote explaining his reassessment of the charismatic movement (from Rediscovering Holiness at 62):
What should one say of the worldwide charismatic movement of the past thirty years?...I believe that God has generated it in order to counter and correct the death-dealing fashions of thought, which, starting with theologians and spreading everywhere, for the past century have done damage by demurring at the truth of the Trinity, diminishing the deity of Jesus Christ, and for practical purposes discounting the Holy Spirit altogether.
To deal with these theoretical errors, and the spiritual deadness to which they have given rise, God has raised up this movement of uninhibited and flamboyant Holy Spirit life...Those who maintain the errors mentioned are thus comprehensively outflanked, not to say upstaged. How wise is the strategy of God!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Interchangeable Units I Hath Made Thee

Orthodox folks have been warning that same-sex blessings are not a stand-alone product. They are part of a package deal, of a set of theological assumptions that come as tied products as they say in antitrust law.

General Synod 2007 passed 3 resolutions which invited 2 different church bodies to lay out the theological rationale both for and against same-sex blessings and marriage.

The Primate's Theological Commission was asked to:
to consult with dioceses and parishes and to report in advance of General Synod 2010 on
the theological question whether the blessing of same-sex unions is a faithful, Spirit-led development of Christian doctrine; and
Scripture’s witness to the integrity of every human person and the question of the sanctity of human relationships.

Since GS 2007 I had imagined this report-in-preparation as a ticking time bomb. Its publication would reveal the full theological assumptions behind the worldviews that would clash at GS 2010, inevitably expressed through a majority and minority report incorporating the theology of Anglican liberalism and orthodoxy respectively. The PTC's response, the Galilee Report turned out to be a damp squib which I will discuss some other time.

Hedging their bets, the supporters of same-sex marriage posed another question as well. They asked the Council of General Synod, the GS's bureaucracy in between our triennial conventions, to consider a revision of the marriage canon "including theological rationale to allow marriage of all legally qualified persons". (Where the article before the word "theological" went I do not know; my guess is that the movers couldn't decide whether they wanted to say "a theological rationale", "the theological rationale", or "any theological rationale"). The CoGS passed the buck down to the Faith, Worship and Ministry committee, which in due time produced the Rothesay Report. I haven't discussed the Rothesay Report yet, because it heavily cites some of the papers produced by the members of the PTC which until sometime in the last week, hadn't been published.

Now they have been.

The Rothesay Report is refreshingly clear about what the acceptance of same-sex marriage involves:
A theological rationale for same-sex marriage needs to re-envision two concepts which have generally been associated with marriage, but which do not translate in a straightforward way to same-sex couples. One is gender complementarity - the significance (in Christian theology at least) of the human reality of being ‘male and female’.

Got that? Same-sex marriage will not be, as SSBs are now often presented, a mere pastoral measure, designed to grant some Christian encouragement to two persons who have taken what they see as the best means to deal with a disordered condition. It will imply and require a "reenvisioning" of the very idea that God created men and women to complement each other in intimate relationships even aside from the fact that their bodies seem well engineered for the purpose of reproduction.

So, why? Well because "In a culture where male and female may take on any and all social roles gender complementarity no longer has any meaning apart from the purely physical distinction." Because Danica Patrick can drive race cars and Sonia Sotomayor will be a SCOTUS judge we must conclude that men and women were not created for each other.

The report in this area heavily relies on Paul Jennings' PTC paper "Same-Sex Blessings: A Systematic-Theological Rationale." Jennings takes the same line, reinterpreting Ephesians 5 to produce a "vision of marriage as a community liberated from patriarchal structures
leav[ing] room for differently patterned heterosexual as well as same-sex relationships." (para 21).

The tenor of the Rothesay report like many such documents can be appreciated by observing the strategic placement of radical and post-modern terms throughout the text. We are told (para 19) that the "biblical version of the redeemed community abolishes such social constructions (emphasis added) citing Gal. 3:18, which has nothing to do with the issue as far as I can tell. Patriarchy, hierarchy, liberationism, social construction. Do the people in ACoC realize they signed up for a major in Women's Studies?

If any of the handful of orthodox folks in the AcoC choose to defend the idea of gender complementarity, they might start by reading this essay by "evangelical feminist" Mary Stewart van Leeuwen, one woman who would have done well to keep her maiden name.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Michael Ingham "In Conflict" with the Truth

The Diocese of New Westminster filed and proudly published for the world on its website last week its Introduction to the case in Bentley v. Diocese of New Westminster, in which oral arguments start next week. One of the arguments which the diocese and named co-defendant +Michael Ingham make is that +Ingham's approval of same-sex blessings is fully authorized under the rules of the Anglican Church of Canada, or as they put it in paragraph 11 of their introduction, "entirely consistent with the Church structures." Now watch their hands closely. They say that "The General Synod resolved in 2007 that "the blessing of same-sex unions is consistent with the core doctrine of the Anglican Church of Canada." "

They wish.

Now there's two -- let's just call them "inaccuracies" for the moment -- in this statement, which purports to be a direct quote from a GS resolution. The substantively less important one irks me the most, because it represents either reprehensible sloppiness in stating important, easily ascertainable facts in crucial, showcase make-your-first-impression pleadings in a case in which millions of dollars and the futures of two major religions are on the table, or a sneaking in of a deliberate misstatement to try to mislead the Court into coming to a false conclusion of fact.

The corresponding wording in the resolution -- A186 -- that was actually passed is "the blessing of same-sex unions is not in conflict with the core doctrine... of the Anglican Church of Canada." (More about this ellipsis later).

Consistent with. Not in conflict with. What's the diff?

Well go to and you'll see a number of definitions for "consistent" but the main ones all start with some form of the concept of "agreement". "Having agreement with", "Being agreeable to". Suppose you ask your buddy, "So how's your wife with that idea of yours of going out for dinner and drinks once a month with your old girlfriend, just as 'old friends?" Do you draw different conclusions about what's going on if he says "No prob. She agrees with it" than if he pauses and says "We're not in conflict about it"?

You see +Ingham wants to create the impression that the ACoC has said it's all hunky-dory with SSBs, that they're agreeable to the Church's system of doctrine in all its fullness. But it hasn't debased itself that far yet. One of the things it has said is that SSBs aren't in conflict with "core doctrine" because they have nothing to do with 'core doctrine', which concerns an entirely separate set of matters. The GS 2007 resolutions start by accepting some of the main premises of the 2005 St. Michael's Report, by the Primate's Theological Commission, one of which is that "core doctrine" is a relatively small area of doctrine containing the crucial good news of the nature of God and the salvivic good news in Jesus Christ. Same-sex blessings aren't in conflict with core doctrine; neither would be officially authorizing rites blessing pornography festivals or all-weekend bar crawls. That doesn't mean either rite would be consistent with Anglican doctrine in its entirety -- or legal on the Anglican church. Such rites would be illegal just as +Ingham's SSBs are illegal, their authorization being beyond his authority.

This misquotation is the smaller part in consequence of the two falsehoods in New Westminster's statement, but it bothers me more because it's either a cheap and sneaky act of attempted deception or an example of gross lawyerly laziness and sloppiness. And if it's the latter, ANiC if it loses will end up paying two-thirds of the cost of the time billed for this little piece of incompetence.

The other lie in the quotation of the GS resolution is one of omission. The actual resolution referred to "core doctrine in the sense of being credal". (BTW no one seems quite sure whether it should be "credal" or "creedal".) That is, core doctrine defined even more narrowly than I have described above, as the affirmations of the great creeds of the early church. As the St. Michael's Report said, "The determination of this question will not hinder or impair our common affirmation of the historic creeds." Which is all quite true, bit hardly any kind of addition to our ecclesiastical knowledge. No, Athanasius and the others didn't find it necessary to put anything in their creeds about homosexuals not being able to marry. Which has nothing to do with whether SSBs are allowable under Anglican doctrine as a whole. The St. Michael's Report said no, obviously not. They're inconsistent with the Church's teaching about sexuality. General Synod 2007 defeated a motion to permit dioceses to perform SSBs. For some reason New Westminster's introduction to the case doesn't tell you these things.

And it's kind of funny that +Michael Ingham (treating the filings of his counsel as his own statements) doesn't seem to know the wording of this resolution. It's not like he wasn't there at the time it was debated. The last two amendments fooling around with the wording of the motion before the final vote -- +Michael Ingham moved one and seconded the other.

Don't get me wrong. The question of whether +Ingham acted legally, illegally, irregularly, prematurely, deconstructionally or postmodernly ain't gonna make a difference in this case. The truth is that the Anglican Church of Canada is so chaotically organized, conceptually incoherent, and inhabited by a spirit of lawlessness that there is nobody who can give an authoritative ruling whether diocesan authorized SSBs are legal or not -- and no means of stopping or disciplining any bishop who simply defied such a ruling if it were given. The ACoC is an ecclesial jungle governed by the law thereof.

But remember when +Cowan of British Columbia sneakily used the quiet of an agreed truce and mediation period to have the locks changed and an alarm system installed and had to be ordered by a judge the next day to hand over the keys and codes and stop tampering with other people's property? Sometimes it's the little things, not the gross and sensational abuses and power grabs, that tell you what kind of people you're dealing with.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Stephen Neill Emends the Sermon on the Mount

Appreciating the Sermon on the Mount is challenging enough as it is, but there is one part of the sermon that always puzzled and disconcerted me. It's Matthew 5:21-22.There was an understandable teaching in there, but something about it seemed somehow twisted.

Jesus says this:
Ye have heard that it was said of them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.
Now this saying always left me squeamish; it was not in the same vein as Jesus's other 'You-have-heard-but-I say-to-you-teachings. The other sayings of similar form first set out teachings of the Pharisees, always teachings that are some combination of the true Law and their own human traditions.. These pharisaical statements concern outward behaviour. Jesus tells them something else. The Pharisees are concerned only with the sinfulness of the outward behaviour; Jesus tells them that God is concerned also with the inward attitudes that motivate that behaviour. Not just adultery is sinful, but also the lust that begets it. God looks at not just the letter of the spirit. His standards for our inward conduct are in one sense even tougher than the jot-and-tittle rules that the Pharisees enforce -- Jesus's rejoinder to His critics who say he is a loose teacher, a subverter of the Law. But Christian conduct is not a matter of dutiful grudging adherence to a set of burdensome rules, but of God-pleasing conduct resulting from regeneration and spiritual growth as we become more and more like Jesus.
Bishop Stephen Neill put it better than I can in his book The Interpretation of the New Testament 1861-1961:
This is not at all the kind of thing that we should expect Jesus to say; this legal logic-chopping is not in the least in the style either of his utterance or his thoughts

Bishop Neill thought he had the solution. He was one of the great orthodox Anglican figures of the 20th century. He maintained a clear attitude of reverence for Scripture with a comprehensive knowledge of modern Biblical criticism. Now the doctrine of inspiration says only that the Biblical books as written by their authors in their original manuscripts were inspired by God. There is no guarantee that these manuscripts have been copied correctly and transmitted to us without error. The huge number of textual variants discovered over the centuries make such a guarantee impossible, indeed confirm there was no such guarantee. Most modern textual emendation results from new discoveries, a correction of a word owing to recognition of some ancient error in copying or to some discovery of a more likely meaning of some word whose meaning in New Testament Greek has always been unclear. In Matthew 5, Neill suggests, there was a slightly different type of error. The ancient copyists transposed the order of the phrases. The words after "judgment" should be moved up, ahead of "But I say unto you". Now the Sanhedrin and Hellfire teachings so much in the style of the Pharisees are in the right place. To the typical Pharisaical condemnation of outward behaviour, the warning that anyone guilty of murder, or insulting or abusing a brother is condemned, "[t]he answer of Jesus then stands in its brief and lapidary splendour -- 'everyone who is angry with his brother shall be liable to the judgment of God".
I should very much like to circulate this interpretation among every orthodox to be found and see how many of them reject it on the grounds that the rearrangement of verses constitutes a sinful tampering of Scripture. Those who do so would be like the Pharisees, burdening the people with a teaching that is an unwholesome mixture of the Law and human teaching and tradition, one often maintained bot for its truthfulness but for its use in condemning others and showing them to be less serious and devout than they are.. Sometimes we must be reminded that we need to do more than just boast of the doctrine of the reliability of Scripture in order to contrast ourselves with the lowly liberals. We need to know what it actually holds, that we might be free to pursue a better understanding of Scripture, and thereby grow in our knowledge of God.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

C. S. Lewis's "Malcolm on Prayer" -- Letter 1 on Liturgy

As much of a C.S. Lewis fan as I am, it's odd that I haven't until now got around to reading "Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer". Somehow I acquired some funny ideas about it decades ago. It wasn't published until after Lewis's death, and I acquired the impression that it was one of those books literary executors will put out after someone dies by slapping together any few pages of fragmentary documents they can slap together out of the deceased's file of Bad Ideas And Abandoned Projects To Be Forgotten. I also got the impression that there was a real Malcolm and thought that the letters might be filled with discussions of this Malcolm's difficulties with the trams not running according to schedule and how hard it is to get a proper cuppa tea nowadays. Skimming Google reviews, it seems one otherwise serious reader somehow did get the idea that these were real letters addressed to Malcolm Muggeridge.

The letters are mostly about private prayer; but in the first letter Lewis chooses to discuss the "almost nothing to say" he has about liturgy. In 6 short pages he touches on every major theme and controversy which the Anglican Church worldwide has, unbeknownst to Lewis, struggled with over the last 45 years.

As ANiC and ACNA begin the process of deciding what they are to do about their diverse liturgies, this is an appropriate time to look at what Lewis has to say about the subject. Lewis had much to say for uniformity in liturgy:
I think our business as laymen is to take what we are given and make the best of it. And I think we should find this a great deal easier if what we were given was always and everywhere the same.
To judge from their practice, very few Anglican clergymen take this view. It looks as if they believed people can lured to go to church by incessant brightenings, lengthenings, abridgements, simplifications amd complications of the service.

Lewis was spared in his own lifetime the years of liturgical experimentation that led to the creation of the various books of alternative services. Any week one might come to church and find in the pews some grubbily photocopied version of a new experimental rite that the liturgicists were "trying out". Those days are over now. The main danger in this area comes from those who believe that language simplifications, scrubbing of theology, and forced artificial informality are, along with tambourines, rock bands, strobe lights and liturgical dance, the way to attract young people to church. The continual failure of such methods to do any such thing never deters such folks. The main sufferers from this disease are parents unwilling to face the facts that their teenagers are not anxious to go to church because they are not Christians. And in any case, as Lewis says, people do not go to church to be entertained. Lewis identifies another of the defects of continuing liturgical novelty:
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.
The crucial question about liturgy is: why have one? This is relevant to ANiC because of its heavy charismatic influence and the charismatic emphasis on spontaneity and ecstatic expression. The charge of such against liturgy is that worshippers merely sleepwalk through a service, mouthing familiar terms in an exercise of empty formality. In Letter 1 Lewis puts the other side:
"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....The perfect church service would be one we were almost unaware of; our attention would have been on God.
A typically brilliant summing up of a position -- but are there not many things our attention is focused on during a service besides being simply and directly on God?

Monday, March 30, 2009

Vote Early, Vote Often, Vote Anglican

The Diocese of Niagara has completed its 134th Synod. The best indication of what it all means is probably the Bishop's Charges to the Synod, since the synods are organized so that those attending don't really decide anything. The Bishop is articulating a new Vision for the diocese. Every new bishop implicitly says that the tenure of the previous bishop was been one of status quo and stagnation, although the predecessor takes no offence knowing it's all part of the game. As far as I can figure out, he has decided to turn the diocese into a political party run by treacly and trendy management principles, except they aren't trendy any more because as always these people are years behind what's current in these things.

In his first charge the Bishop retroactively endorsed Barack Obama: the US Presidential election, we witnessed another new door opening and the breaking down of barriers that has sent ripples of hope and promise not only across the United States but around the entire world.
+Bird begins to lay out his platform. His organization will be competing with the NDP and Green parties:
It is a challenge to us all to reclaim our prophetic voice in a troubled and broken world and to lead the fight against poverty, violence and injustice that continues to pervade our communities and our society. As part of this aspect of our work together there is a strong challenge to embrace the United Nations Millennium Development Goals of 2001...
He expands on this idea in his second Charge, delivered the next day;
We are beginning to dream and imagine a church in such a way that when people throughout Southern Ontario think of the work of Poverty Reduction, or Environmental Sustainability ....they think of the Anglican Church and the Diocese of Niagara.
He missed the boat on the environment stuff. The Green Party has grabbed that niche for itself, and unlike the Anglican Church of Canada, it has been growing. I would think a bishop's vision should be that when people thought of Godly living, of people whose lives showed the sign of the attempt to be like Jesus, of humility, honesty, and self-sacrifice they thought of the Anglican Church of Canada, but those days are long past. It should be noted that "Poverty Reduction" is a term of art. It has nothing to do with giving alms to the poor, or giving time to food banks, homeless shelters and the like. It stands for a distinct and Leftist form of political agitation:
Poverty Reduction(or poverty alleviation) is any process which seeks to reduce the level of poverty in a community, or amongst a group of people or countries. Poverty reduction programs may be aimed at economic or non-economic poverty. Some of the popular methods used are education , economic development , and income redistribution . Poverty reduction efforts may also be aimed at removing social and legal barriers to income growth among the poor.
The Prophetic Social Justice Component of the vision was discussed in the presentation on Excellence in Ministry. It's interesting that the consultants used in this process are from the Church of the Redeemer in Toronto. That is the church where open homosexual James Ferry was deposed some years ago, now a centre for pro-homosexual agitation. (I'm now a little cautious about telling people that I used to attend that Church lest they get the wrong idea.) Among the goals of this process is to "Educate Laity and Clergy with respect to justice issues." Those whose politics are different than the bishop's need to be indoctrinated. And about worship? "Inspire Christian social activism through worship."
It is not just that all this is at best irrelevant to Christianity. It is such thin gruel to anyone who knows the Gospel. Even if I shared the leftist vision I would have no desire to be involved with this organization, knowing as I do that if this program is examined for results next year, it will be found to have accomplished exactly nothing. Ir is a vehicle of left agitation for those who don't want to suffer the burden and pain of working in and constantly losing elections. Even though the scales have fallen off my eyes, even though I realize that the diocese has been inhabited by this spirit at least since the time of +John Bothwell and probably before, my first reaction is always to recoil in shock when I read things like the proceedings of the 134th synod of the Diocese of Niagara. In some sense I'll never quite assimilate, at an emotional level, what has happened to the Anglican Church of Canada.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Green Shift

Anglican Bishop of Niagara Michael Bird, who some claim is a successor to the Apostles, has issued a pastoral letter, Caring For Creation, as part of the buildup to the diocesan synod this weekend. (They really ought to title of these things in Latin. At least something about them would be impressive.) It illustrates both the theological vacuity and utter futility in action of the modern Anglican Church:
This is the time of the year when we are perhaps most mindful of the wonder and beauty of God’s creation. Caring for creation is at the heart of who we are as a people of faith.
Now there are a lot of things one could claim to be "at the heart of who we are as a people of faith" and get away with it. Furthering the Glory of God; the blessed life and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ; transforming ourselves through the Holy Spirit into people who live like Jesus, etc. But "caring for creation": isn't one of them. +Bird shows himself immediately to be the kind of person who writes things without seriously thinking about them, and throws out phrases like "at the heart of our faith" when he means that something is very important. If caring for creation were at the heart of the faith, we should start devoting our time, energy and money to the Sierra Club or the Green Party, which at least is growing, unlike the ACoC.
Throughout the ages, however, our concern for creation has drifted to the sidelines of our Christian witness.
No citations from the Fathers of the Church there to demonstrate how "our concern for creation" was once at the centre of our witness. He needn't waste his time trying to find any.
. Yet many, like theologian Christopher Lind who spoke at our Synod in 2007, have not forgotten this
important mark of how we live out God’s mission and are calling us to reclaim and renew our role as custodians of creation.
Here are some extracts from Mr Lind's presentation to the 2007 Synod :
Earth has a collective identity and a collective voice, capable of rejoicing in delight and groaning in sorrow. In order to hear the voice of Earth, we have to listen for it. Maybe the voice of Earth is a little bit like ‘body language’ – a communication without words; or maybe it is like the language of whales and other animals. They do communicate. We just have to learn their language!

Earth and its components not only suffer from injustices at the hands of humans, but actively resist them in the struggle for justice.

We're getting beyond trendy environmentalism here, into something really creepy. Back to +Bird:
In Niagara, caring for creation has become an important part of how we will pursue excellence in ministry
through prophetic social justice-making.
It is so painful to hear leftist jargon. bandied about in the place of the language of Christianity. OK here's the heart of the faith, an arena for prophetic social justice-making. Just what does the bishop direct his flock to do:
The first is Earth Hour on Saturday, March 28 at 8:30 p.m. It’s an hour in time where we, as a people of faith, symbolically turn off those things in our lives - televisions, computers and lights – which contribute to
the production of green house gases by the electricity they use from non-renewable sources of energy...I echo this call and urge all Anglicans in Niagara to observe Earth Hour. For more information, visit KAIROS’ website( and learn this relates to their Re-Energize campaign.

Last year, I wrote to you in response to a motion from Youth Synod asking me to declare one Sunday per year (near Earth Day) for Anglicans in Niagara to walk, cycle or carpool to church. This year Earth Sunday falls on April 19. I hope all parishes will go one step further this year and observe Earth Sunday in some way
through their Sunday liturgies. As part of my Earth Sunday plans, I’ll be reducing my carbon footprint by using my hybrid car as little as possible and by walking to my host parish that Sunday. I urge all of you throughout our great diocese to also reduce your carbon footprint on Earth Sunday as way of demonstrating your commitment to care for creation.

That's it. That's the taking up of the Cross that this religion requires. One hour of turning things off and taking a nap, and stick a reference to the environment into the Prayers of the People. These are people who hold a form of godliness but deny the power thereof.

In the last federal campaign the Liberals ran on their Green Shift, an environmental program headlined by a carbon tax. With disastrous results. The attempt to make this new social gospel the means of the vivification of the ACoC will have the same fate. But give Stephane Dion this: he was willing to stand up for what he believes, and pay the cost of his discipleship.