Pontoppidan on Modern Christians

We pretend to be the followers of the first Christians. But could we imagine that these professors of the truth in Jerusalem, Antioch, Rome, etc., were a people of such mind and such manners as the great multitude among us at the present day? Equally terrible, lavish, voluptuous, miserly, thieving, harlot-like, drunken, false and cunning? If they were so, could it be possible that their preaching and worship had ever gained power and had become permanent? Or even less that it had so conspicuously and so quickly put paganism to shame, and that without the slightest outside help, even in the midst of having to face death daily?

Dr. Erich Pontoppidan, Collegium Pastorale Practicum

James Jordan: From Land to City

What follows are some notes from this excellent lecture by James Jordan.

After A.D. 70 we have the city. In Revelation the city appears. From A.D. 30-70 the Bride is made ready, goes through tribulation, and the city comes at that point. A.D. 70 is the first coming of Jesus.

The shift from land to city is not a mere symbol but a cultural phenomenon.

In the city you have foreigners, you don’t have that in the country. There are different kinds of food in the city. Out in the country the eat the same stuff more or less.

In the Old Covenant, cities were for foreigners. Land was divided up for Israel. There was no land for the foreigner. You could maybe rent or lease land, but in the Jubilee year it goes back to God and then back to those he gave it to. 

Numbers tells you about the city. 1000 cubits out from a walled city is city space, you can grow crops in those areas. Cities are slightly more holy. Leprosy out in the land doesn’t mean anything. In the city, something has to be done about it. Slightly more holy in that system.

Deuteronomy 13. Foreigners are there seducing you. They don’t do that in the country.

The city anticipates the new creation already in the Old Testament. The city is not under the Jubilee laws. You can buy and sell land permanently, like the New Covenant.

Jerusalem itself is already becoming this new place. City life is not under the elementary principles–when we were children and angels were teaching us.

Angels instructed us using stars and animals. We worshiped bringing animals, they carried us to heaven. Proverbs, learn from the animals. Cherubim ox, lion, and eagle. Animals are first in the world. 5th day and first half of the 6th day. They precede us in the world. The animal trails leads you to the good water. They discover what’s good to eat and where the water is before we do. Now Jesus blazes the trail for us, not animals.

In the city you don’t live by the almanac or with animals, but with other people. 

Division of labor in the city. High culture as opposed to folk art. Temple orchestra, Temple choir.

When the new creation happened, the world changed.

Passover was not a family meal. Do it with someone next door or later it was done in the Tabernacle. Made into a family meal after AD 70. The Jewish animal-centric system was forced to end.

Pagans were terrified of their gods, New Age is playing games, playing paganism. Nobody has taboos, nobody has fear and dread, such as not eating foods. Modern paganism is Humanism with frosting on top.

A.D. 30 to 70 is a type of what happens everywhere over the world when the Gospel arrives. The horsemen of Revelation:

It conquers.

Opposed to each other.

Old things starved out. Bread, wine and oil protected.

Green horse kills off the old ways, continue in Christ or come into Antichrist, you cannot go back to where you were before. 

It brings city. We have to learn to live with each other, can’t avoid it anymore.

City becomes manifest over time. Bible is truth given to exorcise us and de-mythologize us. The Bible purges out all mythic thinking. It never uses mythic language or categories. It is pure history. It has its own chronology.

Gods are sucked out of human fears and consciousness by exorcism and technology results. Technology is the extension of human beings as governors and transformers of the world. It enhances our hands, our feet, our ears. We are extended by this. No longer afraid to do it.

No longer in bondage to be a farmer in the USA. Any return to the land today is voluntary. The whole world is citified. Farming is citified. Garden in your backyard is for fun. 

Folk music disappeared replaced by commercial music. World becoming city. Money economy. Globalism. Increasingly universal noosphere.

Confessions of faith written 500 years ago in a largely agrarian society. What questions do we have that they did not? Not to change the facts but how they are expressed. Have to change or we become little sects over here on the side.

Rebellion of the old against the new. Country life is better. How much incest is there in country life? It is just different, not better.

Big reaction against the city in the 20th century Europe was against it. Germany, Austria, Romania, folk movements, land and blood. A reaction against city and city life.

Nazism: using Wagner with gigantic displays with people in squares. City stuff going on trying to go back to blood and land. Agrarian ideal. Volk. Pure race. Reaction against what Jesus has done. What He has done can’t be stopped. Those reactions fizzle out. It can’t work. The world is mixed and cosmopolitan. USA is on the forefront, pioneers. More kind of people in one place. Not a pat on our back. What Jesus has put in front of us. Europe tried to stop it. Didn’t want Jews and got Muslims. Neo-pagan movement in USA agrarianism. Universities. People are discipled by working in soil with animals. Discipled better. Vanderbilt. An ivory tower thinking that blacks and poor whites should live that way when you yourself would never do it. Nature doesn’t disciple people, the Holy Spirit does it. Angels and spirits used nature to disciple people in the Old Cov. Agrariansim failed. Familism still around in some Christians and it has failed.

Gal 4: 8-11

Church calendar is our choice, not imposed on us. 

We don’t live by the almanac in the church. The old world had to know the seasons, sun, moon, stars, etc. to plant their crops.

We no longer have lunar months. We are free from that.

The Church as city is the heart of the New Covenant. It starts in the church and flows out. It undergirds everything. The Alpha form of the Kingdom, not the Omega form. 

Acts 2, all languages in one faith. Koran only in Arabic. Hebrew Bible only in Hebrew in older days. Day of Pentecost the Holy Spirt comes and speaks in every language EXCEPT Hebrew.

The Bible can be translated into every language accurately.

All languages, one faith.

Not one language, one faith.

Jew and Gentile have to come together. Circumcision tore the world in half, Jew and Gentile. The resurrection puts them together. The distinction is gone. Be mutual to one another and esteem one another better than ourselves. Baptists are better than us, Pentecostals, etc.

Get along, mutuality in the city. Everybody is the same in justification. By acting in the right way the Church patterns it for society.

Islam is a huge international tribal religion with an idol at the center, the meteorite. It’s written in a book. Arian Christianity gone to seed. Another form of the perversion of the gospel. 

Is the city bad in the OT? Cain and Nimrod’s cities, Nineveh, Babylon, premature cities. The pagans get there first. No polemic against the city as such. Jacques Ellul agrarian, city life is dangerous. In reality city life is tough, but it’s a grown up problem. More challenges, more fearful than the countryside. The city isn’t bad, the city of man is bad.

Counterfeit cities. 

ACNA: Husch Blackwell, Greenhouse, and GuideOne Insurance

Canon William Beasley

The long-awaited report on sexual misconduct in the Upper Midwest Diocese of the ACNA has been released. There is much to digest in the report, but one situation that receives mention on pages 38-39 could have wider implications. That is the apparent lying on an insurance application which the Greenhouse organization submitted to GuideOne Insurance. Greenhouse is an amorphous church planting organization that dates back to AMiA days if not before and which was primarily, though not exclusively, housed within the Upper Midwest Diocese. The founder of Greenhouse is Canon William Beasley, who has since been forced to retire from official leadership of the organization.

In 2013 Beasley submitted an application for insurance to GuideOne Insurance. The report’s account follows:

Beth Thompson was also interviewed by Husch Blackwell as part of this investigation regarding an issue relating to Greenhouse. However, Thompson was not interviewed as part of the Greenhouse Review discussed above because she was no longer serving as an Administrator at the time of the review. Previously, Thompson worked for Greenhouse directly with Canon Beasley from 2011 to 2015. She explained how on an insurance application for GuideOne Insurance dated December 2013, she believed Canon Beasley did not answer the questions about Greenhouse’s sexual abuse policy accurately. Thompson stated that she believed Canon Beasley incorrectly answered “yes” to the following questions:

> Does your policy include a procedure in which you ask employees and volunteers if they have ever been accused of, participated in or been convicted of sexual misconduct?

> Are all employees, and those volunteers involved with any activity involving a minor, required to sign a release form which you keep on file that allows you to request a criminal background check?

> Do you conduct criminal background and reference checks on employees and volunteers?

Specifically, Thompson explained how Greenhouse did not have any volunteer sexual abuse policies in place, and no volunteers who worked with children had any background checks done. Thompson described how, at the time, when she told Canon Beasley that she did not agree with his answers on the insurance form, he said that someday we would have these procedures in place. Thompson stated that Canon Beasley went on to say that since Greenhouse was a healthy culture, it would not have any problems. Thompson explained how Canon Beasley was very autonomous with little to no oversight or structure, especially because the ACNA was so new. During Thompson’s time with Greenhouse (2011-2015), she believes that Greenhouse never had any sexual abuse policies in writing nor talked about them

What are the implications of this? Well, one would assume that there has been some insurance money and/or lawyers involved from GuideOne in relation to the sexual abuse that went on within Greenhouse ecclesiastical units. Would GuideOne now be able to terminate this support based on these new facts? Would any other insurance company want to pick the organization up as a client? Are there wider implications for Upper Midwest or ACNA? What are the consequences for knowingly falsifying an application? And what does it say about individuals who are commanded to not bear false witness and who would (apparently) lie with such ease about so serious an issue? An issue that would in fact come back to explode in their faces and cause so much damage to the entire denomination.

I expect that this report is not the end of this story, but only its midpoint.

Objections to the Bible: the death of Judas Iscariot

For some, the accounts of the death of Judas Iscariot reveal contradictions in the scriptural text. Again I have to ask the question: were the first Christians really so stupid that they didn’t notice these supposed contradictions? The arrogance of the modern really shines through in some textual criticism. The basic accounts are in Matthew 27 and Acts 1 and harmonize easily if we picture Judas hanging himself on a tree over a valley and then falling and bursting apart.

R.J. Knowling’s commentary on Acts has this to say:

Wendt and others maintain that St. Luke here follows a different tradition from St. Matthew, xxvii. 6 ff., and that it is only arbitrary to attempt to reconcile them. But Felton and Zockler…see in St. Luke’s description a later stage in the terrible end of the traitor…if the rope broke, or a branch gave way under the weight of Judas, St. Luke’s narrative might easily be supplementary to that of St. Matthew. Blass, in loco, adopts the former alternative, and holds that thus the narrative may be harmonized with that of St. Matthew, when the rope broke, he fell to the ground…

The words no doubt mean strictly “falling flat on his face”…not “falling headlong,” and so they do not necessarily imply that Judas fell over a precipice, but Hackett’s view that Judas may have hung himself from a tree on the edge of a precipice near the valley of Hinnom, and that he fell on to the rocky pavement below is suggested from his own observation of the locality…At all events there is nothing disconcerting in the supposition that we may have here “some unknown series of facts, of which we have but two fragmentary narratives:”

Objections to the Bible: Pilate’s Inscription

Christ Crucified (1632) by Diego Velázquez

One objection to the integrity and inspiration of the Bible is that the sign above Jesus during the Crucifixion is reported differently in each gospel. As with many objections, it seems absurd to think that the earliest Christians would not have noticed this in the accounts and figured out that it was a problem, but putting that aside…Philip Volmer addressed the issue in his book The Modern Student’s Life of Christ on page 263, where he says:

It is variously reported by each of the four evangelists. This may have been because the inscription itself differed in each of the three languages, or perhaps because each evangelist records only a part of what Pilate wrote, as shown in the following scheme.

Pilate:This is Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.
Matthew:This is Jesus ……………….., the King of the Jews.
Mark:……………………………………. The King of the Jews.
Luke:This is …………………………. the King of the Jews.
John:………. Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.

ACNA Misconduct: Jay Greener Resigns

Former C4SO Canon Jay Greener.

Jay Greener was the rector of Redeemer North Shore and C4SO Dean of the Midwest. He was the first communications director for the AMiA. A new letter from Bishop Todd Hunter says in part:

Last December, our Ombudsman, Canon Kimberley Pfeiler, received allegations of “actions not appropriate for clergy” involving the Rev. Canon Jay Greener, Rector at Church of the Redeemer. I determined that an independent investigation was required, and the Diocese then engaged Wade Mullen of Pellucid Consulting.

The investigation included interviews with 27 current and past staff, vestry and congregation members, a survey involving 99 Redeemer parishioners, and a review of supporting documentation. On that basis, Pellucid delivered their Independent Assessment Report last week, concluding that they found “credible and compelling” accusations of inappropriate conduct, including the abuse of power, sexual harassment, and alcohol abuse.

After reviewing the report with his Chaplain/Representative, Bishop Kevin Donlon, and discussing the report with me, Jay resigned as Rector of Church of the Redeemer and forfeited his license in C4SO. Because he is canonically resident in the Province of Rwanda, Jay will now be under the care of Archbishop Laurent Mbanda, Vice Chairman of GAFCON, who received the Independent Assessment Report and will ensure Jay’s future accountability. 

C4SO should be commended for moving so fast on this, but why is Greener not being defrocked? Why is he still clergy? Why is it ok for him to serve under the aegis of Rwanda? This looks like just another instance of terrible judgement on the part of Anglicans with regard to Rwanda. It should be troubling to GAFCON as well, which is unfortunately meeting in Kigali next year.

Sanctification of the Water in the 1662 BCP

The baptismal liturgy of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer makes an addition that contrasts with the previous theology of Cranmer and Bucer. That addition is the consecration of the baptismal water:

sanctify this Water to the mystical washing away of sin; and grant that this Child, now to be baptized therein, may receive the fulness of thy grace, and ever remain in the number of thy faithful and elect children; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The original Prayer Books had no indication of the Epiclesis in Communion or the setting aside of the water during Baptism, the revision added the sanctification of the water due to the influence of Bishop John Cosin. Cosin was a high-church Arminian and friend of Laud and Charles I. Cosin was a strong Protestant, while exiled to France he befriended the Hugenots and attended the reformed church at Charenton (see p. 265 of this).  However, he was engaged against the Puritans and Calvinism generally while in England.

The following page from here shows Cosin’s commentary on the BCP at the section on baptism, where he remarks about the water:

1

Note that Bucer had a problem with this consecration of the water in his review of the BCP to Cranmer [source]:

2

And here is a historical note on the change:

3

Source.

All of this indicates that this was a change away from a more Reformational understanding of the sacrament of Baptism.

The Illinois Lawsuit and ACNA

William Beasley and Stewart Ruch.

From RNS:

Cherin, who declined to use her last name to protect her daughter’s privacy, filed a lawsuit Wednesday (May 18) in Kane County, Illinois, against Christ Our Light Anglican Church. The lawsuit argues that Cherin’s daughter, who is referred to as Jane Doe, has experienced mental anguish and emotional and physical pain because of the church’s negligence, and it requests over $50,000 in damages. The case will be co-counseled by longtime sexual abuse attorney Boz Tchividjian and local counsel Evan Smola.

An important facet of this lawsuit (potentially) is that it includes the ACNA itself. As Kathryn Post reports:

Though Christ Our Light Anglican is now defunct — online records show that it dissolved in July 2021 — Tchividjian told RNS this doesn’t prevent the church from being part of the case. The lawsuit also names several other Anglican entities as respondents in discovery, including the Diocese of the Upper Midwest, Church of the Resurrection (the diocesan headquarters where Rivera previously attended and volunteered), the Greenhouse Movement (the church planting organization that oversaw Christ Our Light Anglican) and the denomination itself.

Because of the continual bungling of the process and response to serious sexual misconduct in the Upper Midwest–specifically in a Greenhouse church–the ACNA is now facing its worst nightmare, lawsuits. The overarching desire to preserve stability and the illusion of collegiality amongst the College of Bishops is now smashing into the wall of reality. What might the discovery process turn up in terms of how the diocese, the Greenhouse Movement, and the ACNA have handled this serious situation? As Watergate taught us, an organization’s response to a crisis is often worse than the crisis itself.

Theophilus

Robin Lane Fox provides an interesting take on the addressee of Luke and Acts:

Acts and its companion volume, the third Gospel, were dedicated to “most excellent” Theophilus, who wished to “know more exactly” about the faith “of which he had heard.” Only one other type of person is called “most excellent” in the two books: a Roman provincial governor. The usage of contemporary Emperors and the incidence of the title in inscriptions and the papyri confirm that “most excellent” people were people of very considerable rank and position: Theophilus, then, is the cover name for a highly placed figure in Roman circles. Acts’ abrupt ending is explained if “Theophilus” knew the sequel to Paul’s years of arrest. “Theophilus” had heard of Paul’s trial and execution: perhaps he had attended both. He wished to know the truth of a faith which had interested him but now lay under this recent cloud. Acts and the third Gospel are the first, and greatest, of Christian apologies to be addressed to highly placed pagans.

What Does Baptism Do?

What does baptism do? It saves:

1 Peter 3:21 Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,

It forgives sins:

Acts 2:37-38 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

The Nicene Creed:

I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins;

The Belgic Confession:

…as water washes away the filth of the body when poured upon it, and is seen on the body of the baptized when sprinkled upon him, so does the blood of Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit internally sprinkle the soul, cleanse it from its sins, and regenerate us from children of wrath unto children of God.

The Service Book and Hymnal of the Lutheran Church:

Then the Minister, laying his hand on the head of the Child, shall say: Almighty God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath begotten thee again of Water and the Holy Ghost, and hath forgiven thee all thy sin, strengthen thee with his grace unto life everlasting. Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer:

Seeing now, dearly beloved brethren, that this Child is regenerate, and grafted into the body of Christ’s Church, let us give thanks unto Almighty God for these benefits;