The Part of Psalm 91 That No One Likes

A favourite psalm of many is Psalm 91.  Everyone likes this part:

Praise of a Song, by David. He that dwells in the help of the Highest, shall sojourn under the shelter of the God of heaven. He shall say to the Lord, Thou art my helper and my refuge: my God; I will hope in him. For he shall deliver thee from the snare of the hunters, from every troublesome matter. He shall overshadow thee with his shoulders, and thou shalt trust under his wings: his truth shall cover thee with a shield. Thou shalt not be afraid of terror by night; nor of the arrow flying by day; nor of the evil thing that walks in darkness; nor of calamity, and the evil spirit at noon-day. A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee. (Psalms 91:1-7 Brenton)

It’s a favorite these days, and was one in the wake of 9/11 (and in the military during the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan.  But there’s a part that most people are unaware of, and that’s this post’s subject.

Let’s go down towards the end of the psalm:

For he shall give his angels charge concerning thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. They shall bear thee up on their hands, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone. (Psalms 91:11-12 Brenton)

If this looks familiar, it should.  We like to quote this psalm, but during the temptation in the wilderness so did Satan:

Then the Devil took him to the Holy City, and, placing him on the parapet of the temple, said to him: “If you are God’s Son, throw yourself down, for Scripture says- -‘He will give his angels commands about thee, And on their hands they will upbear thee, Lest ever thou shouldst strike thy foot against a stone.'” “Scripture also says,” answered Jesus, “Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.'” (Matthew 4:5-7 TCNT)

As it turns out this was the beginning of the conflict between Christ and Satan while Our Lord was on this earth.

During the passion, crucifixion and death of Our Lord, it certainly looked like Jesus should have taken Satan up on his bargain.  It’s for sure that Satan thought so.  But Satan’s apparent victory evaporated when Jesus Christ rose from the dead and won for us eternal life.

God has promised to protect us.  Sometimes, however, the road to victory and ultimate protection has some “bumps” in it, but that doesn’t mean that all is lost.  If Our Lord had to go through what he did, what can we expect?

No, the more you share the sufferings of the Christ, the more may you rejoice, that, when the time comes for the manifestation of his Glory, you may rejoice and exult. (1 Peter 4:13 TCNT)

England will miss its Church when it’s gone

The Church of England is on its knees, and not in a good way. Before the pandemic, physical congregations were already sparse, and getting sparser: in 2019, estimates put the average Sunday service attendance at just 27 people. When Covid-19 reached these shores, the Anglican leadership responded by closing churches even for private prayer, and they’ve issued barely a squeak for months on end. No one knows whether physical congregations will ever recover.

England will miss its Church when it’s gone


US Christians increasingly departing from core truths of Christian worldview, survey finds

A new survey shows that the majority of Americans no longer believe that Jesus is the path to salvation and instead believe that being a good person is sufficient.

As part of the ongoing release of the Arizona Christian University-based Cultural Research Center’s American Worldview Inventory, the latest findings — exploring perceptions of sin and salvation — from George Barna, the group’s director, show that nearly two-thirds of Americans believe that having some kind of faith is more important than the particular faith with which someone aligns…

US Christians increasingly departing from core truths of Christian worldview, survey finds

Retreat Singers: A Folk Song of the Life of Christ

E&M EMLP-005 (1966)

This album comes from the Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Little Rock, Arkansas. It was done by the Episcopal Young Churchmen under the direction of the Rev. Edgar E. Shippey. As the name implies, the album’s inspiration came from their retreats in the Arkansas mountains, with musical arrangement assisted by James A. Pence, Jr.

Chronologically it comes between Gere and Williams’ Winds of God and the beginning of the epic God Unlimited albums under Tom Belt. That’s a nice place to put it too; it goes “beyond” some of the Episcopal formality of the first but doesn’t quite hit the folk “spark” of the early efforts of the second. It has some narration, which was de rigeur at the time (and would also appear in albums by Ian Mitchell and Sister Germaine) although some of them are readings set against the songs rather than explanatory material. It has some interesting selections. The song “Turn Around” is secular and had been featured on Kodak’s ads a few years before. “Were You There” was a staple for albums like this in part because it was one of the few spirituals Episcopalians were familiar with (it was in the 1940 Hymnal, #80). There are some other interesting songs and a couple of Hebrew ones as well.

It’s a nice album, well done, better technically and in muscianship than most of its Roman Catholic contemporaries, doubtless reflecting both a stronger musical training and better budget. The group went on to achieve some fame, performing at the National Cathedral in Washington after this album was produced. Things were starting to move very quickly in the world of Christian folk music, and this album was very much in the middle of that.

The songs and recitations (with performers):

  • Introduction (The Rev. Edgar E. Shippey)
  • Hana Ava Babanot (James A. Pence, Jr., and Craig Wells)
  • Reading (Jennifer Brewer)
  • Mary Had a One Son (Sylvia Hawley)
  • Turn Around (The Retreat Singers)
  • Reading (Jennifer Brewer)
  • Reading (Paul Thornton)
  • The Battle Hymn (The Retreat Singers)
  • Readings (James A. Pence, Jr., and Paul Thornton)
  • Hallowed be Thy Name (Beth Saunders)
  • Jesus Loves Me (The Retreat Singers)
  • Reading (Paul Thornton)
  • Reading (Craig Wells)
  • Look Ye Jerusalem (The Retreat Singers)
  • Reading (Ida Vaughan)
  • In Remembrance of Me (The Retreat Singers)
  • Were You There (The Retreat Singers)
  • Reading (James A. Pence, Jr.)
  • O Lamb of God (The Retreat Singers)
  • Reading (Paul Thornton)
  • My Master (Sylvia Hawley)
  • Song of the Resurrection (Sylvia Hawley)
  • Reading (Richard Boles)
  • Avodim Hoyinu (The Retreat Singers)

Produced by Earl Fox and John Hannon
Recorded at E&M Studios, Little Rock, Arkansas
Recording Engineer: John P. Hannon

For more music click here

Anglicans, We Need Bible Studies — The North American Anglican

Anglicans are often proud of the central place of scripture in prayer book worship, especially the lectionaries, those scheduled scripture readings for the Daily Offices of Morning and Evening Prayer and the Eucharist. Certainly, it is true that a widening diversity of calendars and lectionaries across the Anglican world are limiting claims about uniformity of…

via Anglicans, We Need Bible Studies — The North American Anglican

The Answer, Fleming Rutledge, Is Blowing (in Part) in the Lectionary

This interesting exchange between Danté Stewart and the well-known Episcopal theologian Fleming Rutledge appeared in my Twitter feed:

Screenshot from 2020-08-01 13-55-13

It’s not a simple subject to unpack but it’s not as hard to understand as Rutledge thinks it is.

First, no matter how you try to make it happen the New Testament doesn’t really advocate changing, let alone overthrowing, the existing social order.  As John McKenzie pointed out in The Power and the Wisdom, “…if any image represents the encounter of Church and state, it is the image of Jesus before Pilate.”  Although it’s a stretch to say that the Roman Empire ruled for so long bereft of the consent of the governed, it’s also true that it did not have the “democratic” means to effect change in a peaceful fashion the way we take for granted.  Those democratic institutions–imperiled by our current political situation–are a necessary prerequisites for the kind of change that is generally advocated by the SJW’s.  The New Testament moved in a world where such change was effected by armed revolt, as the Jews disastrously tried two score after Our Lord’s death and resurrection.  That’s still true in many parts of the world today.

Second, when white Southern evangelicals had much less education than they do now, they pushed through some pretty populistic, anti-moneyed establishment things which we, with our venal political system, would struggle to replicate today.  I discuss that in my piece on Elizabeth Warren (a product of that culture) and won’t repeat that analysis here.  A major reason why Southern Evangelicals have gotten away from this or any other “social gospel” is that they’ve shifted to a more aspirational mode of life, and if there’s anything people on the left hate, it’s being aspirational.

Third, there’s always the natural enmity of the secular left to Christianity, one that goes back to the Enlightenment and the French Revolution.  That’s one which is hard to get away from no matter how Christians view the situation.  I discuss some of that in a European context in my review of Daniel-Rops’ A Fight for God.

My last point, however, is that the difference between what parts of the Bible Evangelicals and others are fed in church.  Evangelical pastors can pick and choose the parts of the Scripture they want to for their sermons, and they know their audiences better than most of us care to admit.  Growing up as an Episcopalian, I was presented (esp. in the Sundays after Trinity) with some pretty challenging stuff, as I document in my pieces on ordinary time and my “return” to my home church, Bethesda-by-the-Sea.  That will raise your consciousness on what the Gospel really means when lived out as our Founder intended it to be lived.

The problem with that consciousness raising, at least for me, is that it became soon apparent that the Episcopal Church, with its elevated demographics (and largely white ones too) was inherently unsuited to be the engine of social change.  So I took my leave.  There is no substitute for personal action.  At this point it’s nice to point out literature to people, but really, if you can’t manage to sell all or shut up, the least you can do is quit your job.

Review – Prolegomena: A Defense of the Scholastic Method by Jordan Cooper — The North American Anglican

Prolegomena: A Defense of the Scholastic Method. By Jordan Cooper. A Contemporary Protestant Scholastic Theology. The Weidner Institute: A Division of Just and Sinner, 2020. 358 pp. $21.60 (paperback) Whether you realize it or not, a heated debate has been taking place in Protestant circles these past few decades, over the usefulness or even compatibility…

via Review – Prolegomena: A Defense of the Scholastic Method by Jordan Cooper — The North American Anglican

Note: This article notes the “heated debate.”  I’ve defended Scholasticism before, but generally in a Roman Catholic context.  But I’ve also seen the heated debate within Protestantism on this topic, especially from one belligerent and rude Barthian blogger from the Portland area.  (What is wrong with this part of the country?  It’s worse than South Florida!)  I still think Scholasticism has merit although it’s best done within a Catholic context.  (Unless, of course, you’re trying to revolutionise mathematics…)

Jonathan Merritt is Out of His League Fooling With an Anglican

Anne Carlson Kennedy’s post didn’t sit too well with him, and he responded as follows:

From top to bottom, this “essay” is a mess. The giant, unbroken paragraphs are a slog to read, and the grammar errors and made up words (what is “Tragical” exactly?) are impossible to ignore. But the worst part, perhaps, is that you couldn’t even get the premise right. I didn’t argue that “Evangelicals deserve to be cancelled.” I wrote a piece explaining how a movement sparked by evangelicals is coming for them. Which is why you weren’t able to actually quote me saying such a thing. If you’re going to use words in public–and particularly if those words are going to be weighted down with such bald self-righteousness–I would suggest that, at a minimum, you do not use those words to bear false witness against others. Unlike LGBTQ relationships, lying is one of the big 10. Do better.

But she is not to be outdone:

So, first of all, I am the Director of Better. If anyone can do better, it’s me. Rest your mind on that score. Second of all, I feel that if you have to go after the quality of my writing, it must be because I upset you in some way. Third, “tragical” is a word much loved by those who read girly books like Anne of Green Gables. Of course, it’s not the sort of term one would use in most online “spaces,” but I have carved out my own niche here, mostly full of people who don’t mind a little wordiness. It’s not for everyone, if it were, that would ruin it.

Anglican blogs and websites tend towards the extended monologue (verbose) with the vocabulary that follows.  That’s probably why (in addition to my background) I’ve gravitated towards the Anglican/Episcopal world for the last score or so, and why my Pentecostal and Evangelical friends find me mystifying and ignore me whenever they get the chance.  When going online for instruction, I promised my students that I would be as rambling and incomprehensible online as I am in person, and I plan to make good on that promise.

Merritt has picked the wrong person to characterise as a blindly triumphalistic evangelical.  She and her husband Matt have paid the culture war price in their own church, having gone up against a malicious opponent.  She’s also good (as the above quote will attest) at the Anglican Put-Down, responding to which (as any street evangelist who will level with you will attest) is nearly impossible.

I’ve recently pointed out the Anglican/Episcopal world’s elevated demographics in this country, and how it’s inappropriate for them to go down the CRT path.  In this case, however, it pays off: Merritt’s out of his league in taking on this reader of Anne of Green Gables.

Book Review: William Tyndale: A Very Brief History by Melvyn Bragg — The North American Anglican

William Tyndale: A Very Brief History. By Melvyn Bragg. London: SPCK (2017, 2019). 106 pp. $18.00 (hardcover). $12.00 (paper).[1] $6.99 (Kindle). William Tyndale gave us the English Bible and thereby also the English language as it has been read, written, and spoken since. Melvyn Bragg believes that Tyndale nonetheless is largely a forgotten man—his story,…

via Book Review: William Tyndale: A Very Brief History by Melvyn Bragg — The North American Anglican