2020

It is commonplace to talk about what a year this has been, and yet I can only echo that sentiment. As I write this a good friend of mine has Covid, a family I know is suffering with it, and it seems like storm clouds have gathered all around. Due to spending so much time at home, it has felt like a long year, even though I love spending time at home.

All of my life I wondered what would happen to the Church if persecution or suffering came upon it, this year gave me an answer, and it wasn’t good. Instead of repentance, sackcloth, ashes, or a deep reformation and turning to the Scriptures, I saw politics, hatred, infighting, denial, arrogance, and foolishness. It is impossible to generalize about thousands of congregations across the country, let alone the world, but from where I sit I did not see the Church repent or search herself for sin. I saw pastors rushing to tell us that God does not punish nations with things like plagues. I saw congregants leave church rather than wear a mask because of some weird theological or more likely political reason. The idolatry I saw for Donald Trump was unlike anything I would have believed possible from people who should know better, and was akin to the Messianic frenzy that greeted Senator Obama on the campaign trail in 2008. It is a truly depressing time in the Church and the world, although there is a lot of hope on the horizon.

I would like to think that Christians will mature and embrace reason, paired with a deeper dive into the Scripture and history of the Church. However, I generally think that things will continue as they are. There is nothing new under the sun and the condition of humanity in our age is about what it always has been, which is to say poor.

I don’t have much hope for the ACNA and I am generally disengaged from its struggles because of this. Perhaps due to age or life circumstances, there is a weariness that comes with the rancor and failure to change on the part of our churches. Someone said, “Institutions, like organisms, seek survival for themselves and their descendants.” That’s what I see ACNA and the various sub-jurisdictions doing. The Church needs a reformation as badly now as it did 15 years ago, if not more.

CANA becomes CONNAM

I just saw this:

Appointment of Bishop Felix Orji as the Coordinating Bishop of the Church of Nigeria North American Mission (CONNAM)

The Rt Rev’d Dr Felix Orji, the Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of the West in the United States has been appointed as the Coordinating Bishop of the Church of Nigeria North American Mission (CONNAM) with immediate effect.

By this appointment Bishop Orji will coordinate the mission of the Church of Nigeria in the United States which operates in two Dioceses: Anglican Diocese of the Trinity (ADOTT) under the Rt Rev’d Amos Fagbamiye and the Anglican Diocese of the West under the Rt Rev’d Felix Orji.

The appointment was signed by the Primate of All Nigeria, His Grace, the Most Rev’d Henry C. Ndukuba on Friday October 16, 2020.

Congratulations to the Rt Rev’d Felix Orji, the Coordinating Bishop of CONNAM.

The LORD be with you.

The Ven. Paul Dajur, PhDGeneral

Secretary CON

I wonder what prompted this change?

An Honest Look at Dying, Death and Life

Professor William Stuntz died of cancer last week at age 52. He knew he was going to die for a long time. This interview is a remarkable look inside an honest Christian, his regrets over life and his impending death. The following question and answer are a poignant example:

Your life is ending sooner than you must have expected.  Are you pleased with the life you lived?

No.

I’m not displeased in the sense that I never got to see that or do this or enjoy something else.  I have almost none of those feelings.  I am utterly satisfied with my life in those terms.  I have gotten many more good things than I could deserve in any conceivable way.  I have been incredibly more blessed, along multiple dimensions, than I would have imagined when I was young.  In that sense, I am perfectly pleased with my life.

What I am displeased with is my own living of life.  I feel an acute sense that I ought to have done better with the circumstances I was given.  This is one of the reasons why it cut me so deeply when people suggested that suffering is God’s discipline — because I find it so very, very easy to believe in a God who is profoundly disappointed in me.

It seems utterly natural to believe in the Disappointed God, because I myself am disappointed.  He must be even more disappointed, I think, because his standards are so much higher than mine.  How could he not be disappointed?  That makes complete sense to me.

It’s the other God, the God who does not experience that kind of disappointment, the God who sees me the way that Prodigal Son’s father saw him — that is the harder God for me to believe in.  It takes work for me to believe in that God.

The Vancian Prose of John Donne

John Donne sounds like a character in a Jack Vance book in this passage from his Essays in Divinity:

Picus, Earl of Mirandula, being a man of incontinent wit, and subject to the concupiscence of inaccessible knowledges and transcendencies, pursuing the rules of Cabal, out of the word Bresit, which is the title of this first book, by vexing and transposing and anagrammatizing the letters, hath expressed and wrung out this sum of Christian religion.

The End this Isn’t

Events like last week’s tsunami often spur on premillenial believers who think that things have never been this bad before and that the end is in sight. This is not new. James Moorhead mentions an encounter that Robert Willett had back in World War I:

…he encountered an energetic man who explained that Kaiser Wilhelm was the beast described in the thirteenth chapter of Revelation and that Jesus would appear within months to “rapture” the saints.

As George Marsden points out in Fundamentalism and American Culture, World War I touched off a frenzy of speculation about Germany and “the Huns” being a possible candidate for the Antichrist and his Empire. One can imagine how a world war would lead people to speculate on such matters. And I am sure that this speculation reached another level when Hitler was around. And yet, the end did not come.

This did not stop speculation. The emphasis shifted from shattered Germany to the Red Menace and the Soviet Union which would surely invade Israel and fulfill Ezekiel 38. The bad interpretation of premillenialism said that “this generation” applied to 1948 and Israel (we are now 63 years later, when does a generation end?). Chuck Smith said the end was probably going to be in 1981…or maybe 1986.

After the Cold War ended with no Russian invasion in sight, there was a bit of a lull as some looked to China as the new possible beast from the East. Then we had 9/11 and the premillenial world went crazy over Islam. Surely Islam would usher in the end by invading Israel.

In some ways, premillenialism cannot ever be proven wrong. You can show people all of these past wrong predictions and they will blow it off as men’s opinions. Dates change, the Antichrist changes, new events are constantly discovered within the same old passages, and the end still does not come. But people love to think that our generation is the most important one, and that things like this have never occurred before. Well, they have. Many of the Biblical texts point to AD 70 and the destruction of the old world. No more Temple, no more Law, no more Jews (their religion was ended at the Cross and there is no more Temple worship that wouldn’t be an insult to God). Read this book and learn a thing or two. God’s kingdom will continue to spread from the River to the ends of the earth, like a mustard seed that grows into a great tree.

Information Overload

Nicholas Carr has an excellent insight into the information tsunami problem that we are in the middle of in this post:

When we complain about information overload, what we’re usually complaining about is ambient overload. This is an altogether different beast. Ambient overload doesn’t involve needles in haystacks. It involves haystack-sized piles of needles. We experience ambient overload when we’re surrounded by so much informationthat is of immediate interest to us that we feel overwhelmed by the neverending pressure of trying to keep up with it all. We keep clicking links, keep hitting the refresh key, keep opening new tabs, keep checking email in-boxes and RSS feeds, keep scanning Amazon and Netflix recommendations – and yet the pile of interesting information never shrinks.

The cause of situational overload is too much noise. The cause of ambient overload is too much signal.

A commenter to the post writes:

Eventually, you just have to recognize limits. You have to get rid of a lot of good stuff. It’s hard.

Another says:

Worse, however, is ‘conversation overload.’ I can walk away from information but walking away from conversations is far more difficult and our technologies make conversation/communication so much easier and that produces more of it.

I think these are apropos sentiments with the thoughts I have had recently about eliminating news (“the junk food of the mind”) from my reading diet. I would also like to weed some more blogs and things like that out of my consumption. Replacing all of that with more solid reading sounds like a good plan.

Starving Leviathan

I wonder:

* How many colleges and universities could survive as currently configured without Federal loans, grants and aid?

* How many foreign governments and militaries could survive without aid from the United States?

* How many hospitals or other medical practices could survive without Medicare, Medicaid and other payments from the central government?

* How many state governments could survive as currently configured without Federal money?

* How many businesses in the DC metro area would collapse if defense and other Federal spending were drastically reduced?

* How could the housing market survive in its current form without government assistance?

I could go on. The tentacles are everywhere.

My Current Scripture Reading

For my Scripture reading last year I read Deuteronomy over and over. This year I am attempting to dig into the Wisdom books. I have been reminded that the road to Christian maturity is one of meditation on God’s Word, a constant approach and re-approach to the same texts, seeing them through the lens of Jesus and His Church.

I don’t have the discipline right now to follow a lectionary style of reading every day and I don’t want to launch out on another read the entire Bible project. So in these overly busy years I want to try and focus in on something that I can benefit from by repetition. I also want to feel some freedom about where I read, because I tend to feel very rigid about starting in one place and proceeding on until the end, not hopping around. I am trying to break away from the feeling that I should constantly be reading the lectionary or doing Genesis to Revelation on a cycle.

Part of the problem with my Scripture reading is that I find myself addicted to reading news and social media throughout the day every day. I need to drive a stake through those habits so that I can spend more time reading quality material and less on passing fancies. Lent might be a good time to try and change those habits.

Small Groups as Part of the Good Life

Isolation kills. Spiritually, we are meant to live in community. One way to do this is through small groups, by whatever name they are called. There are many reasons to conduct and participate in small groups, but one I have not seen is to me central, and that is the definition of the good life given by Aristotle:

“happiness,” or the good life, which is to be attained in a community of family and friends who can satisfy one another’s material and social needs, behave justly toward one another, and, according to their capacity, contemplate the Good.

There are many nights when I don’t feel like going to small group. I’d rather stay home, avoid the drive and rest. But this definition springs to mind and helps me to focus on a primary reason for going. Contemplating “the good” – in our case, the Triune God – is done in some measure by being with other Christians and reflecting on God’s Word together. It’s a simple concept, but it has been held to be central to human happiness throughout Western history, and I believe that vision holds true today.