August 13, 2014

Same-Sex Marriage and the Challenge and Opportunity of Liberal Theology

(Submission to the Anglican Church Commission on the Marriage Canon, Aug., 2014)
The Archbishop of Canterbury was recently quoted in Canada as saying he had ‘many questions’ when asked for his personal take on the issue of same-sex marriage in the Anglican Church. This is encouraging as up to now much of the ‘discussion’ on this issue has consisted of hurling vacuous insults back and forth. Those in favour of same-sex marriage have been described as un-Biblical heretics, apostates and non-Christian pagans. On the other side, those opposed have been described as hateful, homophobic, unloving holders of the pre-scientific and superstitious view of the Bible. Discussion on this level has polarized and fragmented the Anglican Church, distracted clergy from effective ministry and led to a steep decline in attendance. Many people - including Synod Delegates who will meet to possibly change the Marriage Canon in 2015; are confused, disgusted and I believe deceived by these simplistic arguments. The Anglican Church of Canada is now evenly divided. On one side many Anglicans have come to believe that a new, more loving and inclusive but vaguely defined Liberal Theology is an improvement over the more judgemental form of Biblical Theology found in many Anglican Churches. Others believe Liberal Theology, which affirms same-sex marriage, is actually a deconstruction of Biblical Theology and needs to be exposed and rejected. In order to discuss the issue of same-sex marriage from a clearer theological perspective we need to compare the two theologies. This is also an important opportunity for all of us to reflect on these differences as a Church and make a clear decision on whether to continue compromising with Liberal Theology or to change direction and embrace a more balanced form of Biblical Theology that includes both law and grace.

1.     What is Liberal Theology?
Liberalism is a philosophy of liberating people, often from religious doctrines that prevent them from – well, getting married! This philosophy has historically challenged the authority of the Bible and its’ interpretation by the Church on a range of issues. The result is that since the Reformation a new, largely unstated, Liberal Theology has developed to accommodate those who cannot believe in traditional Christian beliefs such as the Virgin Birth, the healing miracles and the sacrificial death of Jesus as atonement for human sin. The long history of this collision of science and reason with the supernatural spiritual worldview and claims of the Bible includes:

August 9, 2014

The Word Is Near You (Proper 19)

We all need Jesus to be there for us, to reach out and catch us when we are afraid. We are sometimes like Peter in the boat. We get “beyond our depth” in the storms of life and need someone to rescue us. This parable explains how the spiritual world is all around us and how Jesus as “the Word” is always very near to us.

1. Most of the time we do not think about our need to be saved
Most of the time we feel safe in our comfortable little boat. We are rocked by the storms of life around us but it seems safer in the boat than outside. In practical terms many people believe if they just keep the Ten Commandments - or at least try, things will somehow work out ok.
Story of Joseph and his brothers (all good people of the Hebrew Law) reminds us this does not always work in real life. In real life we are blinded by our pride. We may think we can manage without being saved and without Jesus - at least for a while.
  • Problem is that we are human. Our human nature is weak. We fail and fall into sin. Joseph’s brothers let their jealousy drive them into anger and almost murder. This is the story of all of our families.
  • The Good News is that when we do fall into sinful or destructive behaviour, Jesus is always there to reach out to us and save us from sinking any farther. The Good news is that God has created a way to remove the guilt and shame of our sinful behaviours. All we have to do is repent and cry out “Lord save me”.
2. The Story is not about walking on water

August 2, 2014

Wrestling with God

The Readings begin with the story of Jacob wrestling with an angel - possibly with God Himself. The Apostle Paul is also wrestling with God over the refusal of the Jewish leadership to embrace Jesus as the Messiah. Finally, in the story of the Feeding of the 5,000 the Disciples are wrestling with Jesus over not just the practical problem of feeding a huge crowd; but the deeper issue of who He really is. These readings teach us that it is normal and important to wrestle actively with God if we are to have a serious spiritual life.

 1. Jacob was re-named Israel which means "God Wrestler"
Jacob was in a very fearful situation. He was about to face his brother Esau. This is the same brother Jacob had cheated out of his father's blessing. He had fled and was now a wealthy man and ready to return. He sent waves of cattle on ahead of him to Esau as peace offerings. He is so afraid of Esau that he can not sleep. All night he wrestles with his fear, guilt and shame in the physical form of an angel or God Himself. In the morning he is re-named Israel by God. This is the beginning of the Nation of Israel. The change in name is also a change in purpose and mission. These people are to continue to wrestle with God. Their God is not to be a distant rule-giver. They are to wrestle with their God over their deepest personal fears and over the major decisions in their lives.