Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Jesus on the cross 1

"The scandal of the cross was thus not simply that Jesus had been put to death as a criminal, but that the particular death that he suffered was the most barbaric that could be devised. Moreover, the barbaric death had involved the display of his naked body in public - the final, utter degradation. Christians, not unnaturally, have shied away from this aspect of Christ's suffering: they have no inhibitions about portraying the blood, caused by the crown of thorns and the spear-thrust, for these proclaim the truth that Christ's blood was shed for us; but they have shrunk from portraying the nakedness of Christ - the modest loin cloth which they add to his body conceals the shame that was an integral part of crucifixion. but the early Christians were very much aware of this as an essential part of the scandal of the cross. One second-century writer, Melito, Bishop of Sardis, wrote a Homily on the Passion which includes these lines:

'He who hung the earth is hanging;
he who fixed the heavens has been fixed;
he who fastened the universe has been fastened to a tree ...

O unprecedented murder! Unprecedented crime!
The Sovereign has been made unrecognizable by his naked body,
and is not even allowed a garment to keep him from view.
That is why the lights of heaven turned away,
and the day was darkened.'"

All taken from Not Ashamed of the Gospel: New Testament Interpretations of the Death of Christ, by Morna D. Hooker (Professor at the University of Cambridge)

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Spiritual Violence? "We who have gone through the day of sadness shall enjoy together the day of gladness"

I live in California, where in my own city I have seen people harassed because they helped to pass Proposition 8, I think I have a small understanding of what the future may hold for all who are orthodox, Evangelical and Reformed. Michael Adee, Executive Director & Field Organizer of More Light Presbyterians, confirmed some of my thoughts with his words.

He thinks that defending marriage as between a man and woman only is ‘an act of spiritual violence and civil injustice.’

He tried to reinforce his word with an essay he has posted on the More Light Web site. The article, “The Religious Violence of ‘Defending Marriage’ by Jon Pahl, is taken from the Martin Marty Center for the study of Religions at the University Of Chicago Divinity School. It is one of those articles that can be defended or debated point by point.

For instance one point # 2 is “DOMA [Defense of Marriage acts] Laws elevate heterosexual marriage to idolatrous status. In some communities of faith, defending "marriage" has become all but an item of confessional status (it is absent from any historic Christian Confessions). This arrogates to a majority - heterosexuals - special privileges (economic, social, and spiritual) not available to sexual minorities.”

Now if one wants to argue about rights that is one subject. But to add the idea that the definition of marriage as between a man and a woman only is ‘idolatrous’ for those who adhere to Confessions attacks the Reformed faith with a vengeance.

The reason this is an attack is that the term idolatrous within a faith community implies that something or someone is being worshiped above God. But if a community holds to Confessions which state that the Bible is the word of God then their Confession of that truth must be their guide. For example The Second Helvetic Confession states:

“We believe and confess the canonical Scriptures of the holy prophets and apostles of both Testaments to be the true Word of God, and to have sufficient authority of themselves, not of men. For God himself spoke to the Fathers, prophets, apostles, and still speaks to us through the Holy Scriptures.

And in this Holy Scripture, the universal church of Christ has the most complete exposition of all that pertains to a saving faith, and also to the framing of a life acceptable to God; and in this respect it is expressly commanded by God that nothing be either added to or taken from the same.” (5.001-5.002)

The word of God, as it shows how to frame “a life acceptable to God,” insists that marriage is between a man and a woman. Therefore insistence on forming marriages of same sex couples is itself idolatry. And the one who attempts to do this has put same sex marriage above God.

And each point in Pahl’s article could be debated in such a manner. But that is not what I intend to do here. I think others will and have already written on each one of these points from a faithful orthodox position.

But as I said above, I live in California, where in my own city I have seen people harassed because they helped to pass Proposition 8. I think I have a small understanding of what the future may hold for those, who are orthodox, Evangelical and Reformed. I think I understand a little of what the Church must prepare for. If you and I are dubbed violent now for defending marriage between a man and a woman, the future, humanly speaking, is speeding toward one dark storm.

So this is not about how points are right or wrong, but about drawing close to the Lord of the Church and to each other. This is about embracing brothers and sisters who have not and well not give way to the sexually sick culture of the day. This is about staying one under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

The Reformed writer Richard Baxter in his wonderful book The Saints Everlasting Rest, writes about the rest that belongs to the children of God:

“But though this rest be peculiar to the saints, yet it is common to all the saints; for it is an association of blessed spirits, both saints and angels—a corporation of perfected saints whereof Christ is the head—the communion of saints completed. As we have been together in the labor, duty, danger, and distress, so shall we be in the great recompense and deliverance. As we have been scorned and despised, so shall we be owned and honored together. We who have gone through the day of sadness shall enjoy together the day of gladness. Those who have been with us in persecution and in prison shall be with us also in that palace of consolation. How oft have our groans made, as it were, one sound, our tears one stream, and our desires one prayer. But now all our praises shall make up one melody, all our churches one church, and all ourselves one body; for we shall be one in Christ, even as he and the Father are one.” (61)

Take courage brothers and sisters who love Jesus.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

A prayer request

Alan put this prayer request for a friend's young son on his site. I am directing others there also.

Angel's Song by John Fischer

With thanks to Alan Wilkerson at Theological Edge and his comment on my last posting, here is the song I said I loved in the seventies. You can find it at John Fischer's web site. I wish you could hear the music that goes with it.

Angel's Song
(Words and Music by John Fischer)

In the town of Bethlehem
A king and ruler child was born
Not too many people noticed

Just some shepherds on their farm
Plus a few hundred thousand angels
Breaking the heavens with their song
And the rocks and the mountains joined them
For their time had come

God had promised a Redeemer
Through the prophet's willing tongue
Time had reached its culmination
To reveal His only Son
Born of a virgin child of the earth
With her seed conceived of God
Fully human but in His veins flowed
Precious godly blood

And that precious blood was soon
To be poured out in cruel death
For the healing of the nations
And all those who feel His breath
Lift up your voice and sing to the heavens
With the angels sing your song
Jesus has come to wipe out the darkness
Take us to His home

Even though today our nation
Celebrates this holy birth
Yet so few men truly know Him
If you do then sing this verse
Lift up your voice and sing to the heavens
With the angels sing your song.
Jesus has come to wipe out the darkness
Take us to His home.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

If I could write a letter to Lisa Larges

If I could write a letter to Lisa Larges:

Dear Lisa,

I read your article “The Advocate: God vs. Gay,” at "That All May Freely Serve.” I am almost certain that I am one of those Christians you are calling “extremist right,” and “homophobic.”

And I feel bad not because you have called me this but because you have called millions of Christians who have lived out their faith in the midst of joyful witness with bloody persecution, for almost two thousand years, this name. For they stood where I and others stand now.While their Lord loves them in their faithfulness you dishonor them.

In the seventies there was a Christmas song I loved, the title escapes me. But to paraphrase, it says something about the few shepherds and wise men that attended the Savior’s birth but then goes on to say and a multitude of angels. In the same manner I see that you give as the most obvious reason for staying within the Christian Church that you want to directly counter ‘my presence’ as well as thousands of others. You write:

“First, there’s the obvious. The Christian extremist right, which has increased its influence in mainline churches, must be countered. Many of the Christian denominations have a history of being moderate on many things and progressive on others. In the last three decades that moderate Christian voice has been drowned out, silenced, or taken over. The influence of the Christian right must be countered directly and from the inside. While the Christian right is regrouping, reviewing the payout of its last homophobic spending binge, and wearing that deer-in-the-headlights look, now is the time.”

This only leaves me with a few more words to say about your feelings about myself and my brothers and sisters. We do love you and pray that you might find the transforming power of Jesus Christ in your life.

We pray that God’s perfect will, will happen in your life. That is not praying something easy for you; instead it is a journey taken by all who call Christ Lord. It means dying to self and sin. It means repentance but new life. May it be so for you.

But to go on, you write of God and spirituality and suggest that those of us you consider homophobic are religious but have no spirituality! You also write about the Church and God.

“God still shows up at these things [the trial]. (You might be thinking that it was just caffeine, some other hormonal imbalance, or a perverse quirk, but let’s just call it God for the moment.) It was a God that was patient but frustrated, loving but forceful, and alternately laughing and crying over what some followers do in God’s name. There was a magnificent gaggle of young queers who turned out to observe the trial. Some of them were asked to leave on account of illegal twittering. So there they were, full of love, vibrancy, strength, and faith. I say that’s the church. So sue me.”

Well, I don’t wish to sue you, but if that is your understanding of God and the Church, may I sadly say you hold a kind of spirituality that is foreign to the Scripture. You are equating God with the sinfulness of humanity which leaves us all out in the cold.

Only one human who is also God has that uniqueness. Jesus Christ is the unique incarnation, the one who died for all our sins, whether homosexual or heterosexual. We all need his redemption. We all need to bow before his cross offering him our brokenness for transformation. Love, ”does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth:” (I Cor. 13:6)

Lisa, you are asking others to return to their faith tradition, including those who were raised in the Christian Church, for the purpose of insisting that those already in a faith tradition learn to be inclusive as far as sexual orientation goes.

Once again I am sad. You, who are seeking to be ordained, rather than call people to Jesus Christ, you call for others to join our Churches to teach Christians to allow unrepentant sinners to continue in their sin. You are calling for the destruction of the Church of Jesus Christ.

May you find mercy and forgiveness in the blood of Jesus.

Sincerely from someone who prays for you with sorrow.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The perfection and righteousness of Jesus Christ

My devotional reading this morning reminded me of quite a long time ago, working for Apologetics Resource center. One of the readings was Luke 1:26-38. Another Hebrews 2:1-18. There was some commentary in my devotional book about the importance of the eternal Son taking on human flesh.

The verse in Luke that caught my attention was “The Holy Spirit will over-shadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God.” And in Hebrews, “for it was fitting for him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings. For both he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified are all from one Father; for that reason he is not ashamed to call them brethren,…”

One of my first attempts at writing about a religious movement after writing about Scientology was a movement I have mentioned before, the ‘Manifested Sons of God.’ The central theme of this movement was that a group within the Church would be so filled with power from the Holy Spirit that they would overcome death before Christ returned. Some times this was referred to as the Man-Child Company a misunderstanding of Revelation 12.

Their main understanding of Jesus Christ was more or less an adoptionist view. That is, God choose Jesus the man and so empowered him with the Holy Spirit that he could accomplish his works. In other words he was not eternally Christ but became Christ. They saw the word “perfect” in Hebrews meaning that Jesus had not yet lived up to the requirements of God so God was making him a perfect man by his suffering. In other words he was imperfect and so God was making him perfect.

But that word perfect instead implies that the work that Jesus was called to do was being completed by his sufferings. As Donald Guthrie’s in his commentary states, “The meaning is rather ‘to bring completion’ in the sense that suffering was necessary before Jesus could be the complete pioneer of salvation, or the perfect high priest.” But many leaders of the Manifested Son’s of God didn’t see it that way.

Jesus wasn’t perfect without, etc.etc, doing this or that. And to top it all off we, like him, could all be made Christ.

While I was writing the paper, I discovered that one of Sacramento’s Christian radio stations was almost completely taken over by teachers who were in this movement. God works in interesting ways. Only one pastor on the station that I knew about, a Calvary Chapel pastor, did not teach this heresy. I called him to talk. When I started explaining the problem, he said, “Wait just a minute, I want to put you on conference call so that some other people at my Church can hear.” It turned out that Pastor was just in the process of renewing his contract with the station.

As the weeks went by the owner of the station, who was deeply involved, started teaching with an open line for discussion. I remember clearly that when I pressed the point that Jesus was Christ from his conception his remark was “a little Christ.” The important thought here is that many of these poor people were encouraged to works righteousness rather than the righteousness of Jesus Christ.

But the truth is, God the Son took on our flesh, lived without sin, died on the cross for our sins, and rose to give us eternal life. As the verse states, Jesus is bringing many sons and daughters to glory. It is his righteousness not ours. We find our perfection in Jesus.

Another reading was Psalm 87: “His foundation is the holy mountains. The Lord loves the gates of Zion more than all other dwelling places of Jacob. … But of Zion it shall be said, ‘This one and that one were born in her’…” It is those reborn, born anew into the Church of God, the true Church, the blood washed throng that the Lord will notice…”The Lord will count when he registers the peoples, this one was born there.’ Then those who sing as well as those who play the flutes shall say, ‘all my springs of joy are in you.’”

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


Just hot off the press, great granddaughter Molly with her mom and dad.

And with her mom.




One more.......

Pictures taken by son, David Larson, of Thousand Year Star Productions

Monday, March 23, 2009

All Women in the Church: A new site for the PCUSA's Women's Ministry

I have just discovered that Women's Ministry in the PCUSA has changed to All Women in the Church and is offering forums. Many of the articles on the site allow for discussion but one must join to interact.

One article is "Inclusive and expansive language," and once you are signed in you can comment on that thread.

The article begins:

"When writing a prayer or creating liturgy, do you use father to describe God, or do you use additional or other words such as creator or shepherd to describe God? Or maybe you think all of those suggestions are unfamiliar or impractical. Whether expansive, or extensive, language is something you embrace or something that is new to you, the church has often debated its necessity and appropriateness.

In Peace and Justice Links, an online publication of Presbyterian Women, Jean Vietan writes, 'In the church, language about people should reflect the belief that all persons, regardless of gender, race, ability and so on, are made in the image of God. Language about God should reflect our understanding that all names for God are metaphors' (2005, Issue 6). "

Another heading begins "Join the Lenten Book Group." This is a discussion within the forum site.
The introduction on the main site begins:

"Join us in the forum during Lent to explore and discuss the book Proverbs of Ashes: Violence, Redemptive Suffering, and the Search for What Save Us by Rebecca Ann Parker and Rita Nakashima Brock (Beacon Press, 2002, $18). Described by Publishers Weekly as a “deep theological study of suffering and its role in the Christian Faith,” this book alternates essays of the two women’s personal experiences and the way their experiences have developed their theologies. They examine the concept of redemptive suffering and atonement."

I read this book several years ago. Although I finished feeling extremely sorry for the sufferings of these two women, their rejection of the redemption Jesus bought on the cross is much sadder. I wrote a review of this book for
Voices of Orthodox Women several years ago. You can find it at, Proverbs of Ashes.

My suggestion to all of this is that those who feel led of the Lord, and you must be women, join the All Women site and contribute to the conversation. Let your love for Jesus Christ and his wonderful atoning work on the cross shine with kindness and care. Simply go

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Authority lost, brothers and sisters lost: Up-Date

See bottom for up-date:

While many in my Presbytery deplore the move of some churches away from the Presbyterian Church USA, still those who have left are Christians, brothers and sisters in Christ. Their work in God’s harvest fields is mighty. They are after all beloved of the Lord, and we must love them too. Some of us have dear friends and even family in those churches.

But sadly our movement away from each other grows harsh and unloving and I believe the cause of that movement is due a great deal to the loss of authority among the member commissioners of our presbytery. It is seemingly being siphoned off into fewer hands.

Now it is certain that our last presbytery meeting was extremely busy, and our new moderator has a penchant for moving things along in a speedy manner so that we do not go overtime. But we were told in that meeting that there would be two presbytery representatives chosen to go to a meeting between the Synod of the Pacific and the lawyers of Fair Oaks and Roseville Presbyterian Churches.

Hopefully the reader will recall the Presbytery had agreed to let the two Churches go with their property for a certain amount of money and they would drop their suit to gain their property. Then Rev. David Thompson filed a complaint with the synod throwing the cases back in court.1 Finally Sacramento Presbytery voted to give the cases to the Synod since it was already involved and the synod had ordered the Presbytery leadership to go on pursuing the cases. (There is a lot more but that is enough to clarify the situation I am attempting to write about.)

The moderator, in our last meeting, pushed the question by someone about choosing the representatives to the the end of the presbytery meeting. But when asked again at the end about the issue of choosing representatives stated that the Council would choose them. So much for the Presbytery.

In the Council a motion was put forward that the representatives “should be advised to recommend to the negotiators acceptance of the settlement voted by presbytery on December 4, 2007.” As you can see from the minutes below that motion was defeated.

“Rev. Bob Cordier and Elder Barbara Farley were selected by the Presbytery of Sacramento Leadership (Stated Clerk Carolyn Knight, Past Moderator and Council Chair Rev. Jack Raymore, Moderator Elder David Rue, Moderator‐Elect Rev. C.K. Moore and Treasurer Marie Segur) to be the Sacramento presbytery representatives to the discussions between the Synod of the Pacific and the attorney of the churches of Fair Oaks and Roseville. It was moved that those chosen to participate in the observations of the Synod of the Pacific legal discussions with the attorney of the churches of Fair Oaks and Roseville be advised to recommend to the negotiators acceptance of the settlement voted by presbytery on December 4, 2007. The motion was DEFEATED.”

This action totally ignores the wishes of the whole Presbytery. Now one man who filed a complaint is the one whose actions will seemingly be represented by the Presbytery and that is uncalled for. The Presbytery should have been allowed to vote for their representatives and they should have been able to vote on that motion.

At just the time when we have a task force exploring the possibilities of turning our committees into commissions this is a good reason not to do it.

All of this is a case of more and more authority being taken away from those who are called to tend and care for the sheep of God’s pasture.

1. This is a minister, the only person, who stood before the Ecumenical Committee at General Assembly, and told the commissioners that the Evangelical Presbyterian Church had stole members from the Sacramento Presbytery and had also stole “millions” of dollars from our Presbytery. My husband and I are the only witnesses from this Presbytery to that travesty. Now the Task Force exploring the possibility will be asking members of our Presbytery if that is true!

Someone who is a better observer than I sent this note. "The moderator did state in the early morning that the questioner was out of order and when the questioner persisted he was told he was out of order and that the matter would be dealt with later. Later, going on 4 p.m., there was no space in the agenda for "New Business" rather there was the label "Unfinished Business", the questioner then attempted to gain clarification from the moderator and was cut short with the statement that "The Ecclesiastical Committee would handle the matter."

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Singing about redemption on her death bed-the first ordained Presbyterian woman

The first Presbyterian woman ordained in the United States was Rev. Mrs. Louisa M. Woosley. She was ordained in the Cumberland Presbyterian Church in 1889. Her story can be found at the Historical Foundation of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church and the Cumberland Presbyterian Church in America.

I thought of her as I was listening to one of my favorite country music groups, the Chuck Wagon Gang, sing the song she sung on her death bed. You might also remember it at the end of O Brother Where Art Thou.

The article about Woosley explains.

"During her later years, Woosley's eyesight failed her, and she spent her final year confined to her bed, after breaking a hip. Until her death, she was comforted by the memory of scripture and songs that had been a part of her life. She died on 30 June 1952. In fitting tribute, this gospel song which she sang on her deathbed was sung at her funeral:

My latest sun is sinking fast,
My race is nearly run;
My strongest trials now are past,
My triumphs begun.
O, bear my longing heart to Him,
Who bled and died for me;
Whose blood now cleanses from all sin,
And gives me victory.
O come, angel band, come and around me stand ·
O bear me away on your snowy wings to my immortal home."

The point here isn't that she was ordained but that she loved Jesus and wanted to proclaim his saving grace. She wasn't seeking rights but was seeking to be faithful in all ways to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Facing Racism and Heresy in the African American Community -part 5- a recommended book list

Recommended Books:
This is not an exhaustive list. I am putting a star by those books that up-hold good orthodox and/or Reformed theology.

I began this study by reading two books in opposition to each other. One book was recommended to me by Rev. Mark Lomax pastor of First African Presbyterian Church in Lithonia, Georgia. That is Black Religion and Black Radicalism by Gayraud S. Wilmore.

It is written by a professor who was himself a part of the various civil rights and Black Nationalist events in the sixties.27 That makes the end of his book something of an oral history and very interesting. However, I do add some caution. Wilmore is very liberal and he tends to turn stories of early Christian slaves into those seeking mainly power and earthly liberation. That is a half truth.

The book I countered this with was written by a Reformed Baptist Pastor, Thabiti M. Anyabwile. His book *The Decline of African American Theology: from Biblical Faith to Cultural Captivity, is laid out in a unique way.

He looks at a different biblical doctrine in each chapter and then assesses the historical theology of African American Christians from slavery to the present day under that heading. Anyabwile's stories of early Reformed African American Christians are uniquely uplifting but of course sad. He also provides excellent information on both Liberation theology and some of the heretical teachings of the Charismatic movement.

Another good Reformed book written by an African American is *On Being Black and Reformed: A New Perspective on the African-American Christian Experience, by Anthony J. Carter.

I will explain this book by quoting John Piper, “When I met Anthony Carter several years ago, I detected a rigorous mind, a righteous concern for racial justice, and a Reformed vision of God-a rare combination. Since then I have wanted to be a listener. Now this book makes that easier. May the Lord of nations use it to shape a powerful movement of God-centered Christians from all peoples who have tasted suffering.” An important part of this book is the inclusion of three confessions of the sin of racism by, The Assemblies of God, The Southern Baptist Convention and The Presbyterian Church in America.

On Africa and history I will recommend several books. Thomas c. Oden's book, *How Africa Shaped the Christian Mind: Rediscovering the African Seedbed of Western Christianity, is meant to encourage the reader to return to the early African Church Fathers and Mothers.

Oden wants the reader to understand that these men and women were truly African and their Christianity was orthodox. One particularly interesting part of this book is his tracing of early Christianity along the Nile and other inland areas of Africa. This book is part of a project, “The Center for Early African Christianity,” meant to interest scholars in the study of ancient Christianity in Africa.

Edwin M. Yamauchi, in his book *Africa and the Bible sets out to disprove some of the more persistent untruths about Africa and the Bible. Here is material that refutes racist's ideas from both sides including the “curse of Ham.” Yamauchi's text is also helpful in simply studying the Bible. Africa and the Bible has a comprehensive section on Afrocentric Christianity.

For those who wish to pursue simply the study of African religions, another book recommended to me by Rev. Lomax is African Religions and Philosophy by John S. Mbiti. I found it very helpful although I did not always agree with some of his definitions.

27 See “Activist James Forman being remembered as change agent for the Church” PNS http://www.pcusa.org/pcnews/2005/05026.htm

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Facing Racism and Heresy in the African American Community -part 4

This is the concluding part of this article except for a short reading list I will post next.

Black Nationalism:

There is a long history of Black Nationalistic movements. One that is often referred to in African American history began in Jamaica in 1914 and was founded by Marcus Garvey. 'The Universal Negro Improvement Association' became a large and important movement among African Americans in the United States.19 Garvey's movement gave many African Americans a sense of dignity and hope. While Garvey pushed for equality for African Americans, his main goal was to free Africa from all other nations and establish it as a nation for all African peoples including those living in the United States. Garvey wrote:

"I asked, `Where is the black man's Government?' “Where is his King and his kingdom?' `Where is his President, his country, and his ambassador, his army, his navy, his men of big affairs?' I could not find them, and then I declared, `I will help to make them.'"20

Garvey was a separatist, to be precise, he felt that there should be neither intermarriage nor intermingling of the races. And he was eccentric to say the least. He agreed to interview and be interviewed by the Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.

One of his reasons was that he felt the KKK was behind the United States Government. Another reason was he felt that he and the Grand Wizard held the same view points about their own people's needs. In a speech he stated:

"So you realize that the Universal Negro Improvement Association is carrying out just what the Ku Klux Klan is carrying out-the purity of the white race down South-and we are going to carry out the purity of the black race not only down South, but all through the world."21

A sad part of the history of Garvey is his extreme views on race and nationalism. But it is a lesson and should be noted. The Editor of Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey, Bob Blaisdell, writes:

"His [Garvey's] hard, long-standing, and narrow adherence to, and belief in, nationalism now led him to identify and sympathize with such European tyrants as Benito Mussolini, the Fascist dictator of Italy, and Nazi leader Adolph Hitler, of Germany. In March 1934, in Garvey's magazine, The Black Man, he recommended that his readers peruse Mein Kampf, expressing his hope that one day the black race would produce its own Hitler: “Hitler has a lesson to teach and he is teaching it well.' To a long-time U.N.I.A. supporter in 1937, Garvey boasted, `We were the first Fascists. We had disciplined men, women and children in training for the liberation of Africa. The black masses saw that in this extreme nationalism lay their only hope and readily supported it. Mussolini copied fascism from me, but the Negro reactionaries sabotaged it".22

Strangely, Garvey, who fought with compassion for his own people's equality, failed to grasp the essential evil and destructiveness of any kind of racism. The problem continues.

Many Black Nationalists, not unlike the white Neo-Nazi movement leaders, believe they are at war with the United States government. They view any prisoner connected to such groups as the Black Panthers as political prisoners. Likewise much of their rhetoric is fed by conspiracy theories. For instance, one theory is that the United States government used the Mafia as spies during the Second World War. Therefore after the war the government, allowed the Mafia free rein in the ghettos to sell drugs to young black men.23

These views become scary when they blend with the Black Nationalist's concepts of homeland and black unity. They believe they must work toward a united Africa and/or for an independent nation within the United States for those who live in Diaspora.

In the sixties, the push for an independent land for African Americans within the United States was part of the call for reparations within a document entitled the “Black Manifesto.” The document was directed toward Churches and Synagogues at the Black Economic Development Conference in Detroit in 1969. The Black Manifesto among other quests asked for five-hundred million dollars from the mainline religious bodies for the African American community. James Forman, at one time the executive director of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, wrote and presented the preamble to the Black Manifesto at the conference. Gayraud S. Wilmore, Professor and Presbyterian Pastor in his book, Black Religion and Black Radicalism writes of the presentation:

"The preamble was a caustic indictment of black accommodation and white racism. It called for the identification of black America with Africa and the repudiation of capitalism and imperialism. `We are dedicated,' said Forman, `to building a socialist society inside the United States …led by Black people …concerned about the total humanity of the world.' He broadly hinted at the seizure of state power and guerrilla warfare and declared the control of the conference was being justly seized by virtue of `revolutionary right.'"24

And indeed, some groups that are nationalistic are willing to turn to violence in order to procure their demands. For instance, a contemporary black nationalist organization, the Malcolm X Grass Roots Movement, states on their web site, “we are building a network of Black/New Afrikan activists and organizers committed to the protracted struggle for the liberation of the New Afrikan Nation - By Any Means Necessary!"25

They also have as their goal a nation within the United States; referring to a part of their movement known as New Afrikan Independence Movement, they write:

“The NAIM, is part of the Black liberation Movement in North Amerikka [a supposedly African way of spelling America] that wants independent Black Nation on land in north amerikka. The land identified by the New Afrikan Independence Movement is primarily known as South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana, as well as other areas of what is now called the Black-Belt South, where Afrikan people are in the majority or have a historical/economical/socio-cultural relationship to.”26

But now the water gets very murky and troubling. There are under-currents of connections that exist between some Radical Afrocentric Churches, Black Liberation Theologians and Black Nationalist groups such as the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement and the Nation of Islam.

All see civilization emerging out of Africa. Likewise they see all concepts of a monotheistic God, as in Christianity, Islam and Judaism, emerging out of Africa's indigenousness religions. All three groups insist that all African people are ethnically inter-connected and therefore should be referred to as Africans or Africans in Diaspora. They work together on the same projects, few denouncing the other's racism or heresy. They honor as well as give and accept awards from each other irrespective of the racism and violence promoted by their separate organizations. And most of them believe that Evangelical, orthodox and/or Reformed Christianity is a white religion and alien to their own black faith.

The King and His Kingdom: God's Gift

White Americans have sinned in their racism and their disregard for African Americans. White Christians have sinned in their failure, in the past and today, to denounce slavery and discrimination. African Americans, like Israel before them, have sinned in their disregard for the biblical Lord who has been with them in all of their sorrows and despair. They have also sinned by turning to the same kind of racism that white America has been infected with for so long. But the two kneel before the same Lord. They are one body. They must be one body. “Now you are Christ's body and individually members of it.” (1 Cor 12:27)

And unlike Garvey who sought for a king and a kingdom for his people, this one body the Church, black, white and every ethnicity from every tribe on earth have a King and a Kingdom. Neither African American Christians nor white Christians can atone for all of these sins but they have a Redeemer, the work of redemption was His. It is now done. The Church needs to gather at that cross making common cause, in the faith, with one another and with Him, the Lord of the Church, Jesus Christ.

And they sang a new song, saying,
Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for you were slain and purchased for God with your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.
You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.” (Rev. 5:9-10)

19 Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey, Editor Bob Blaisdell, “Introduction,” (Mineola, New York: Dover Publications: 2004), iii-v.

20 “The Negro's Greatest Enemy,” Current History Magazine, September 1923, found in, Ibid, 3.

21 “Hon. Marcus Garvey Tells of Interview with the Ku Klux Klan: The Ku Klux Klan is the invisible government of the United States of America.” Liberty Hall, New York City July 9, 1922, found in Ibid, 81.

22 Ibid, “Introduction,” x, Editors footnotes, The Marcus Garvey and Universal Negro Improvement Association Papers. Volume 7. 580-581. & J. A. Rogers, World's Great Men of Color (1947) quoted by Tony Martin in Race First, 60., “Garvey's most fervent admirers have not been able to explain away these deplorable alliances and sentiments.”

23 For all of this information read, “A brief History of the New Afrikan Prison Struggle,” by Sundiata Acoli at http://www.prisonactivist.org/pubs/brief-hist-naps.html" http://www.prisonactivist.org/pubs/brief-hist-naps.html.

24 Gayraud S. Wilmore, Black Religion and Black Radicalism: An Interpretation of the Religious History of African Americans, tenth printing, (Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books 2006), 235; See also “A Black Manifesto,” Time 1969, at,

25 See

26 See http://mxgm.org/web/programs-initiatives/why-we-say-free-the-land.html.

27 See “Activist James Forman being remembered as change agent for the Church” PNS, http://www.pcusa.org/pcnews/2005/05026.htm.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Facing Racism and Heresy in the African American Community -part 3

In this third part, once again notice that numbering for endnotes begins with the first posting.

Black Liberation Theology:

Radical Afrocentric Christianity is often a part of Black Liberation Theology. The two movements generally agree that the Hebrew Bible and biblical faith are rooted in black culture and black history. Sometimes this is explained in a very radical and rather anti-Semitic manner such as in the works of Yosef A. A. ben-Jochannan, the author of We The Black Jews: Witness to the `White Jewish Race' Myth.12

Often, it is, instead, slanted in a different, but still racist and heretical way, in the more academic works of such authors as Dwight N. Hopkins and James H.Cone who are mentioned in the first posting.

In Hopkins' book, Down, Up, and Over: Slave Religion and Black Theology, he explains that all cultures are given by God as a spark within and therefore he does not insist on “some movement to bring God to the side of a narrow nationalist cultural self-glorification. Nor is it the hubris of privileging one branch of human kind (that is, the black race) over another (the white race.)”13 And yet, writing further he states:

"The image of God in the black poor is the deeply entrenched Spirit that God's grace gave black folk at creation and that, now through generation after generation, exists by nature.
In addition, this Spirit within summons the black marginalized sectors of society to further liberate their captivity to false white normativity (sic) by claiming biblical indicators and pointers of black presence in the Bible itself. Biblical passages refer to Jesus with hair like wool and skin of bronze color. In fact, the only white people in the Christian Scriptures during the time of Jesus' birth are the European Roman exploiters and colonizers. Not only was Jesus not white, Jesus was from African and Asian ancestry.

Moreover, prior to debates about Jesus' ancestry, arguments continue to surface about the Garden of Eden being located in Northeast Africa. The implication suggests that even in the mythos of the creation narrative, Eve and Adam were Africans. Though the Spirit of liberation dwells in all people, no matter how much it might be submerged and surrounded by one's effort to turn away from it and thereby from God, God, in one sense, projected God's African-Asian image into the first human creation. When God said let us make human beings in our own image and created the first human beings in Africa, on a logical level, God was an African who reflected the divine self into human beings on the African continent."14

Likewise, but in a much more strident manner, writing about God's redemptive dealings with humanity, Cone states:

"For white people, God's reconciliation in Jesus Christ means that God has made black people a beautiful people; and if they are going to be in relationship with God, they must enter by means of their black brothers, who are a manifestation of God's presence on earth. The assumption that one can know God without knowing blackness is the basic heresy of the white churches. They want God without blackness, Christ without obedience, love without death. What they fail to realize is that in America, God's revelation on earth has always been black, red, or some other shocking shade, but never white." 15

A horrific progression to this is that Cone wrote, Black Theology & Black Power, using Karl Barth as his guiding theologian. He quotes him incessantly. But, Cone in his thought's about God's revelation displaced Barth's theology. His idea that African Americans “are a manifestation of God's presence on earth” is without question anti-Barth. He later retracted his use of Barth in his preface to the 1989 reprint, writing:

"Barth's assertion of the Word of God in opposition to natural theology in the context of Germany during the 1930's may have been useful. But the same theological methodology cannot be applied to the cultural history of African Americans or to Africans and Asians on their continents. …

As in 1969, I still regard Jesus Christ today as the chief focus of my perspective on God but not to the exclusion of other religious perspectives. God's reality is not bound by one manifestation of the divine in Jesus but can be found wherever people are being empowered to fight for freedom.”16

Both of the quotes by Hopkins and Cone are racist, heretical and explainable in the context of liberation theology. Liberation Theology began in South American and was a liberal but compassionate focus on the poor and oppressed in South American. It began among Catholic theologians who attempted to locate the revelation of Jesus Christ in the presence of the poor as a means of combating some oppressive governments.

Marxism was a part of the mix as a way of contextualizing the theology, changing the system and attempting to avoid relativism. That is to say, one looked within the society or culture to arrive at both the definition of sin and the presence of God. But, one begins with one's own awareness or suspicions, not with Scriptures. Sin was generally found anchored to the political system with some support in the community, God was found within the oppressed.

God is now manifested in any culture deemed oppressed. In fact according to some, culture is the bearer of God's revelation. On the web site of one Afrocentric Presbyterian Church, within their Credo, are the words "We beleive (sic) that human cultures are the containers of Divine Self -Revelation and that as such, the culture of every human being is to be respected.”

Yes, clearly, cultures are to be respected but even more clearly cultures are not the containers of God's revelation. When God's truth is revealed in some other way then through Jesus Christ alone as he is revealed in the Old and New Testaments, biblical Christianity begins to lose its way.

It happened in Germany during the Romantic period. Barth refers to this as he points to the “despised eighteenth and nineteenth centuries,” while suggesting that the heresy of his own day was nothing new.17 Liberation theology began with Christ found in the poor, accordingly, God is now revealed in black culture subsuming all other oppressed people, including LGBTQ under their theology.18

A great peril arises when race, culture or religion (and here I am speaking of false religion) is seen as the true manifestation of God and so is worshiped in one manner or another. When this new manifestation of God speaks its words they will only be human words and often they will be false words and destructive to the Church.

12 Yosef A.A. ben-Jochannan, We the Black Jews: Witness to the `White Jewish Race' Myth, Vol. I & II, reprint (Baltimore: Black Classic Press 1993).

13 Hopkins, Down, Up, and Over, 262.

14 Ibid., 263.

15 James H. Cone, Black Theology and Black Power (New York: Orbis 1997) 150.

16 Ibid., xii.

17 Karl Barth, Theological Existence To-Day: A Plea for Theological Freedom, (London: Hodder and Stoughton 1933) 53.

18 Black Liberation theology is not alone in using their theology to pull in all other problems. For instance feminist ideology subsumes all other perceived oppression under its concepts. For instance the pollution of the environment is seen as a way of oppressing women because it is felt that nature and women are alike in some of their characteristics.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Facing Racism and Heresy in the African American Community -part 2

This is the second part of "Radical Afrocentric Christianity, Black Liberation Theology & Black Nationalism: Facing Racism and Heresy in the African American Community." Please note that I have continued on with the same numbered end noting.

Afrocentric Christianity

Afrocentric Christianity has partly emerged because of the racists attitudes of Western scholars since the Enlightenment. Many scholars, including anthropologists, during the Enlightenment until the middle of the twentieth century believed the religions of Africa were simplistic and primitive. Along side of this they insisted that Africa was an inconsequential continent.

Various scholars have refuted such ideas. Edwin M. Yamauchi, Professor of History emeritus at Miami University, Ohio, in his book Africa and the Bible, pinpoints those guilty of maligning the peoples of Africa. He names several, including David Hume, George Hegel, and C. G. Seligman “who applied social Darwinism to African ethnography, formulated the `Hamitic hypothesis,' which held that Caucasian Hamities, including the Egyptians, created everything of value in Africa.”6 This was an attempt by Seligman to insist that only light skinned peoples contributed to civilization in Africa.

Another scholar, Thomas C. Oden, recently retired Professor of Theology at The Theological School of Drew University, in his book How Africa Shaped the Christian Mind: Rediscovering the African Seedbed of Western Christianity, writes of the greatness of early African Christianity. He concludes that early Christianity in Africa has been, at least partly, discounted by religious scholars because they simply, in their modernity, rejected ancient Christianity.

He writes of the “young Africa,” stating that “It is at once a very youthful survivor of wearisome modernity, and a most ancient, early, and, in that sense, young expression of both early Christianity and ancient Africa.” 7 Thus the Church of the centuries was shaped in its beginning by the early Church Fathers and Mothers of Africa.

African scholars, both American and others, have written extensively on the culture and religions of Africa in a successful project that disproves many of the caricatures of African religion.8

One important book is by a Pastor and Professor at the University of Bern, John S Mbiti. His book is African Religions and Philosophy. Another is The Spirituality of African Peoples: The Search for a common Moral Discourse, by Peter J. Paris, Professor of Social Ethics at Princeton Theological Seminary. All of this scholarship feeds into the attempt by some African American Christians to return to their religious and cultural roots.

Radical Afrocentric Christianity: The divide among various Afrocentric Churches comes in the context of religion which for some passes over into racism and heresy. That is, some look back to indigenousness African religions, mixing them with their Christianity. They then lift up their culture beside a weakened and distorted Christianity. Those who have began syncretizing other religions with Christianity or including culture as a means of God's revelation I am referring to in this paper as radical Afrocentric Christians.

An example of this is one Presbyterian Afrocentric Pastor who has suggested naming the biblical God using African names such as “'Amen' `RA' and `Olodumare.'” He states that such naming would be acceptable since the African views of a high God are like the biblical view of God.9 But the gods he has named, while they may indeed have some common traits with the biblical God, such as omnipresence and omniscience, are neither Triune nor redemptive. In fact writing of the religions of Africa, John S Mbiti points out that none of them offer redemption in their belief system. He writes:

"This remains the most serious cul-de-sac in the otherwise rich thought and sensitive religious feeling of our peoples. It is perhaps here then, that we find the greatest weakness and poverty of our traditional religions compared to world religions like Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism or Hinduism. These traditional religions cannot but remain tribal and nationalistic, since they do not offer for mankind at large, a way of `escape', a message of`redemption' (however that might be conceived).10"

One must quickly add, it is only Jesus Christ dying on the cross, God coming to us in flesh and offering himself up in sacrifice, that is truly redemptive. The God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit is the truly redemptive God. It is the Incarnation and the redemption of Jesus Christ which sets Christianity apart from all other religions

Non-radical Afrocentric Christianity: On the other hand, other Afrocentric Churches and Christians are simply seeking roots in their own ethnic cultures. For instance, they attempt to re-value African cultural norms by focusing on the community and family rather than the individual. They incorporate African dress, music and even rites of passage that are grounded in African culture.

Some African Americans, who are not Afrocentric, nonetheless suggest ways the black experience can enhance the whole Church, both black and white. Anthony J. Carter, who is a Reformed Christian, reaches back to biblical themes rather than indigenousness Africa religions. He sees that the early and contemporary African American Christians bring to the whole American Church a great gift, that is, its knowledge of how to be the Church in the midst of suffering. In Carter's book, Being Black and Reformed, he writes:

"If the predominantly white church in America desires to know the reality of a providential relationship with God in the midst of oppression as repeatedly demonstrated with ancient Israel, she need only plumb the depths of the rich heritage of her darker brothers and sisters. There she will not only find the most illustrative analogy of ancient Israel, but also find a people who have struggled with the pain of oppression and often tyrannical forms of discrimination and yet have joyfully witnessed the sustaining hand of God.11"

6 Edwin M. Yamauchi, Africa and the Bible, (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic 2004), 206-207.

7 Thomas C. Oden, How Africa Shaped the Christian Mind: Rediscovering the African Seedbed of Western Christianity,(Downers Grove: Inter Varsity Press 2007), 30-31.

8 See, “Peter J. Paris, The Spirituality of African Peoples: The Search for a Common Moral Discourse, (Minneapolis: Fortress Press 1995); John S Mbiti, African Religions and Philosophy, reprint, (Heinemann 2006); Eugene D. Genovese, Roll Jordan Roll: The World the Slaves Made, (New York: Vintage Books 1974); Gayraud S. Wilmore, Black Religion and Black Radicalism: An Interpretation of the Religious History of African Americans, third edition (New York: Orbis Books 2006).

9 In E-mail on file.

10 Mbiti, African Religions, 96-97.

11 Carter, On Being Black and Reformed, 84.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Facing Racism and Heresy in the African American Community -part 1

I stated in my last posting that I would post my article, "Radical Afrocentric Christianity, Black Liberation Theology & Black Nationalism: Facing Racism and Heresy in the African American Community" in parts for my next several postings. I feel the article is relevant for the discussion on the Belhar Confession in all manner of ways. One may understand from this article that all are sinners in need of a Savior. Also one can begin to understand how one kind of evil, white racism, breeds another kind of evil, black racism. We are all guilty and so we need to bring discernment to the task ahead.

Radical Afrocentric Christianity, Black Liberation Theology & Black Nationalism:
Facing Racism and Heresy in the African American Community

"I grew up in a very racist family. My mother wished for an African American cook, my father would have thrown the food away if her wish had come true. We argued about their racism though out my teenage years. Teen age rebellion? Perhaps. More than likely it was my constant reading which included stories about the Quakers and the Underground Railroad. It was also friends, the Bible and my teenage conversion to Christ.

But the truth is I am still arguing. I have been writing articles on racism for almost twenty years. My first articles about racism were on the white Neo-Nazi groups called “Identity.” The last article was on some white pagan groups called Ásatrú and Odinist. Those groups worship the gods and goddesses of old European tribes including Odin and Thor. I wrote of the pagan groups, “The factor that either, makes them racists, or gives them the potential for racism, is their insistence on religion as a genetic development as well as an intrinsic part of the human essence.”1

In fact one recent piece of hate mail I received from an Ásatrú member stated, “The word `hate' in your context is clearly an attempt to distort perception and imply some kind of guilt at the very idea of unity among Native Europeans … You would have to be living in a cave not to see that most ethnic groups unit, (sic) march, organize, for the purpose of strength, preservation of culture, religion, heritage, borders etc....” The writer goes on to write about genetics and religion and how all of civilization is due to the European peoples.

But the movement I am now writing about is different; it is about African Americans who are also either racists or potential racists. It is also about a theology that is, as one African American Reformed Christian states, “little more than a mirror of much of the racist white theology against which it posited itself.”2 The movement is theological, cultural and political and is a combination of Black liberation theology, radical Afrocentric Christianity and various kinds of Black Nationalism.

The movement affects both white and African American believers. This is true because those African Americans who hold to an orthodox and biblical faith are being categorized under the title white.3 So most of what I write about this particular movement's antagonistic attitudes toward biblical and orthodox Christianity applies in just the same manner to orthodox and reformed African American Christians.

These three movements, black liberation theology, radical Afrocentric Christianity and Black Nationalism are fed by many streams. Emotionally they are fed by anger over past wrongs, terrible wrongs.4 But they are also fed by different theological, religious and political movements. For instance when reading Dwight N. Hopkins, Associate Professor of Theology at the Divinity School, University of Chicago, one finds a combination of liberation theology and either/or both process theology and `new thought.' The first type of theology follows the writings of Professor James H. Cone, the father of black liberation theology, the latter follows the early twentieth century founder of the Universal Negro Improvement Association, Marcus Mosiah Garvey. 5

I will look at what I have defined as radical Afrocentric Christianity, Black liberation theology and Black Nationalism showing how they overlap and work together. Above all, my main focus will deal with the problem of grounding Christian theology and God's revelation in either culture, `religion' and/or race. I also want to recommend several helpful books and articles on this subject."

1See The NeoPagan Movement and Racism http://www.naminggrace.org/id59.htm Taken from, Watchman Expositor, Vol. 18, No. 4, 2001.

2 Anthony J. C. Carter, On Being Black and Reformed: A New Perspective on the African-American Christian Experience, Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R Publishing 2003) 16.

3 For instance, see Asa G. Hilliard III, African Power: Affirming African Indigenous Socialization in the Face of Culture Wars,” (Gainesville, FL: Makare Publishing Company 2002), 4.

4 One excellent article dealing with both the horrible treatment of both slaves and contemporary African Americans is, “Bringing the Reformation to the African-American Church: An Interview with Pastor Ken Jones,” in Modern Reformation, “Grace Over Race,” Vol 17 #1 Jan/Feb 2008.

5 See, Thabiti M. Anyabwile, The Decline of African American Theology: From Biblical Faith to Cultural Captivity, (Downers Grove: IVP Academic 2007), 78-79. For statements that sound like new thought in Dwight N. Hopkins works see Down, Up, and Over: Slave Religion and Black Theology, (Minneapolis: Fortress Press 2000) For instance, “This divine nature or image of God (or imago dei) has been dormant or subject to attacks on all sides, both internal and external, spiritual and material. Jesus comes as a process of action and dynamism and literally re-turns the poor to the path of their full potential.” (226)

Friday, March 13, 2009

The Belhar Confession & God's final revelation

The Committee listing for the Belhar Confession has been posted on Moderator Bruce Reyes-Chow’s blog. Special Committee on the Belhar Confession includes at least one Pastor whose theology combines liberation theology with Afrocentric Christianity. Afrocentric Christianity can mean living out the Christian faith by simply including the customs and culture of Africa, or it may be a radical syncretism of African religions with Christianity.

I have written about both types of Afrocentric Christianity in my article, “Radical Afrocentric Christianity, Black Liberation Theology & Black Nationalism Facing Racism and Heresy in the African American Community.”

After writing more about the Belhar Confession I will post the above article on my blog in three or four parts.

I am returning to this subject because the view of culture as revelation and the biblical view of revelation are in total opposition. And those opposites, in my mind, are connected to the understanding of Belhar.

Reverend Dr. Max Lomax a member of the Committee believes “that human cultures are the containers of Divine Self –Revelation.” Not only does the credo on his’ Churches web site state this but also in an e-mail to me last year he affirmed and clarified that statement:

Cultures are containers of the Divine Self because God's self-revelation occurs within the context of culture. Historically speaking human groups have already been formed, tacit social and political agreements have already been made, and people have already agreed upon common defining characteristics by the time they are settled enough to reflect on the nature of their existence. Another way of saying this is that historically people have moved beyond the survival, hunting-gathering, protecting way of being to developing more sustainable, settled, sedentary life-styles and patterns before the God question is even raised in any systematic way. In that sense then, Cultures are the containers of the Divine Self. The genius of God is that God can reveal God's Self and speak meaning into cultures regardless of their unique characteristics. I think human beings have problems with the way those who are different from them talk about and worship God because it is culturally unfamiliar.”

This is important because one of the issues stressed in Belhar is on the unity of the Church. And unity is more important to this particular confession then the Lordship of Jesus Christ. That is, rather than connecting unity to the Church’s faithfulness to Christ as Lord, faithfulness is achieved because of unity.

Lordship is thus pushed to the margins of the Confession. God’s revelation is realized in the unity or agreement among the people of the Church community.

Unity has become more important than faithfulness to Christ. I have stated in another place, because of the problem of racism in South Africa “the emphasis was on unity and the sinfulness of the absolutizing of ‘natural diversity’ and the ‘separation of people.’ Anything “which explicitly or implicitly” maintained “that descent or any other human or social factor should be a consideration in determining membership of the Church” was rejected in the Belhar Confession. (Emphasis mine).”

As I have written In a Review of Horizons on the Voices of Orthodox Women’s web site, “With Belhar the Church would listen to the voices of those in their church community rather than the voice of Christ. Therefore “all” absolutizing might be denied on the grounds of Christian unity. In the American mainline churches when the argument for the ordination of self-affirming gays and lesbians is based on an understanding that heterosexuality is an absolutizing of sexual standards the Belhar Confession is unacceptable and incomplete.

And in fact just recently one of the fathers of the Belhar Confession attempted to use it to gain acceptance of the ordination of practicing gays and lesbians. The Banner, the magazine published by the Christian Reformed Church in North America, reports that “Allan Boesak, a church leader and former anti-apartheid activist, presented a lengthy report on homosexual members to his church, the Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa, at its general synod Oct. 2 (2008). He dramatically insisted that the church’s Belhar Confession demands the defense of the full rights of gay members.”

The Banner further reported that 'Presenting this report to the synod, Boesak told delegates that the Belhar Confession demands that they move in this way. The Belhar, he said, was never meant to be just an anti-apartheid document, but a document against discrimination of all kinds.' While the synod in Africa rejected the committee’s report, it is unclear how the Confession would be understood among those in the PC(USA) who are pushing for the ordination of self-affirming gays and lesbians. The Declaration of Barmen is a much stronger and more faithful confession for the PC(USA).”

And I will add that Barmen does not posit revelation in culture or community but in God’s final revelation, Jesus Christ, as he is known in Scripture.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Are all the foes of Sion fools?

I have been exploring The Cyber Hymnal for songs some might want to sing at a meeting I am putting together. But then I started playing, looking at all the many hymns and psalms put to music by Isaac Watts. I found this startling question in the first line of one song. "Are all the foes of Sion fools?"

What a great question. With all the political and religious news emerging on the Internet over the last few days these are great lines.

Are all the foes of Sion fools,
Who thus devour her saints?
Do they not know her Savior rules,
And pities her complaints?

They shall be seized with sad surprise;
For God’s revenging arm
Scatters the bones of them that rise
To do His children harm.

In vain the sons of Satan boast
Of armies in array;
When God has first despised their host
They fall an easy prey.

O for a word from Zion’s King,
Her captives to restore!
Jacob with all his tribes shall sing,
And Judah weep no more.

To add to this I just read the posting that Toby Brown has very recently put up,
Resting in the God who saves and thought of our great security in Jesus Christ.

I just need to add one more thing and that is one of my favorite quotes from Karl Barth,

"Of course something has to be done; very much so; but most decidedly nothing other than this, viz. that the Church congregations be gathered together again, but aright and anew in fear and great joy, to the Word by means of the Word. All the crying about and over the Church will not deliver the Church. When the Church is a Church she is already delivered. Let persecution be never so severe, it will not affect her! 'Still,' it is said, 'Still, shall the City of God abide, lusty beside her tiny stream.' (Psalm xlvi. 5; Luther's translation.)"

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

And the greatest of these is love, but the greatest love shown is Christ in his suffering for our sins

In his helpful book on world views, The Universe Next Door, James W. Sire, quotes from John Updike’s “Pigeon Feathers.” Sire is thinking of naturalism and its unending darkness.

“Without warning, David was visited by an exact vision of death; a long hole in the ground, no wider then your body, down which you were drawn while the white faces recede. You try to reach them but your arms are pinned. Shovels pour dirt in your face. There you will be forever, in an upright position, blind and silent, and no one will remember you, and you will never be called. As strata of rock shift, your fingers elongate, and your teeth are distended sideways in a great underground grimace indistinguishable from a strip of chalk. And the earth tumbles on, and the sun expires, an unfaltering darkness reigns where once there were stars.”

I thought of this quote while reading the interesting discussion started at Presbyterian Bloggers by Paul Boal. The posting Jesus, is about different kinds of missions and mission minded people: those intent on good works or those who simply want to talk about Jesus and what it means to be saved.

While I believe that both goals must be undertaken by Christians I understand the good news to be that Jesus Christ died for our sins and that by his resurrection we are united to him and given new life. Alongside the above quote I have to think of Jesus’ words to his followers:

Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears my word, and believes him who sent me has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.” (John 5:24)
The gift of life in Christ, his forgiveness, the hope of life with him forever is the greatest goal of all mision. The fields are white and ready for this gift.

Of course, good works follow from our transformation in Jesus.

The great, commission, as it is called, is filled not only with the message of salvation for the nations but with the command to obey all that Jesus taught.

And Jesus came up and spoke to them saying: ‘All authority is given to me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always. Even to the end of the age.’”

So if I as a Christian go on a mission to build houses or heal sick bodies or help the poor plant gardens I must also be ready to proclaim that Jesus died for our sins and calls for repentance from the sinner. I must proclaim that Jesus Christ is truly Lord.

And if I go on a mission to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ, his life, death and resurrection, I must also be ready to help broken and hurting people in other ways. I must serve Jesus Christ as Lord by serving others.

But one extremely important point here is that to be a follower of Jesus Christ, to be united to him because of his great salvation, means I can never refuse to proclaim the message of salvation. That is Christ’ calling to all of his people.