Another Baptismal Certificate

Last December, I posted the reverse of an Episcopal baptismal certificate from the time of the Civil War.  I got some interest in this on Kendall Harmon’s website, and so I’m doing it again, this time with the reverse of a certificate printed in 1924, and used in the Washington, DC area.

It starts with the promises of God in baptism, then proceeds to what the baptised promised, ending up with notes to the sponsors and an exhortation to proceed to Confirmation.

It is noteworthy that this certificate makes a more explicit connection between the rite of baptism and the status of the baptised as a full Christian than the earlier document.  It is also more explicit than the earlier one in identifying the baptised as a child.  Both aim the baptised towards Confirmation and subsequent admission to the Holy Communion.

The actual baptism this document certified was a private baptism, done in the home in the presence of family.  This practice has seriously gone out of fashion in the intervening years, although I was baptised privately (in church) in the mid-1960’s.

Finally, this document is mercifully innocent of the "Contract on the Episcopalians" endured by the baptised of that church today.

Keeping Liberals Entertained

Greg Cruey of the Universities Weblog referred to my piece on the litigation between the University of California and Christian schools as "entertaining."

I’m glad to be of service.  Liberals are a hard bunch to entertain.  Especially these days, since, if they succeed in defeating the domestic Christian Right, they still have to beat the Islamisicts to survive.  And then there are those pesky Third World Christians, like the Episcopalians are having so much trouble with…

He does make one statement that deserves a response:

I guess disagreeing with Bob Jones University (that institution publishes many of the textbooks used by ACSI schools) makes you a Communist…

Let me assure him that I know more about Communism (and have had more contact with Communists) than most people on campus these days.  And Marxism has some advantages over American liberalism, as the latter is currently practised.  Perhaps referring to California as a "People’s Republic" is generous.  Besides, doesn’t your "Governator" have the perfect look for an old time Communist propaganda poster?


Tian an Men Square, Beijing. In the front is the Monument to the People’s Heroes. Behind it is Chairman Mao Zedong’s Memorial Hall.

Sacramento could use an edifice or two like these.

Making Up Our Minds on What We Believe

In his piece Why Does Turkey Hate America? (an interesting subject in itself,) "Spengler" puts the central issue of Christianity (and Islam, for that matter) as succinctly as one could want:

I have never believed that such a thing as "moderate Islam" exists, any more than I believe that "moderate Christianity" exists. Either Jesus Christ died to take away the sins of the world, or he did not; if one believes that Jesus was just another preacher with a knack for parables, one quickly will be an ex-Christian. Either God dictated a final revelation to Mohammed which invalidates the corrupted scriptures of Jews and Christians, and the sign of the crescent should rise above the whole world, or he did not.

Oh, that so many in the Episcopal Church (and other liberal churches) could be so clear…too bad the Qur’an isn’t on the subject of the corruption of the previous scriptures!

The Two Hard Questions About Evangelicals Moving Up

D. Michael Lindsay’s book Faith in the Halls of Power documents the rise of evangelicals in American society.  That’s an interesting subject, one that I dealt with some in Taming the Rowdies.  But I think there are two hard questions that need to be answered before people on both sides get too excited about this.

How much impact are evangelicals really having on the course of society?  It depends on what the stated goals are.

If you’re a theonomist (or closet theonomist, many people are in reality but won’t admit it) we’re nowhere near achieving "bringing America back to God," as I keep repeating on this site.  We only need to look at our culture–to say nothing about our legal system–to see this.

If you’re comparing us to, say, Europe, we’re doing quite well, but it’s more of a maintenance task with some of the same long-term problems that European have faced in the past.

But what does that have to do with evangelicals in the elite?  Evangelical leaders have said two things for years:

  1. If we could only get our people into places of power and influence, we could redirect the culture.
  2. We can get into those places because of the superiority of our world view and lifestyle.

The fact that evangelicals, in the face of persistent trashing by our elite directed media, have gotten as far as they have is testament that the latter is true.  The former is problematic, because anyone moving up has to meet the demands placed on him or her by the system.  In many cases those demands end up effectively overwhelming the ability of the evangelical to really impact the society.  That’s the dilemma that impaled the Republicans in Congress: the demands of keeping themselves in office to effect the desired changes forced them to resort to patronage driven spending and other decidedly unconservative things, which defeated the whole purpose of them being there in the first place.

But let’s turn the issue around and look at it from a careerist standpoint.  If I am a young man or woman planning a career and want to choose a religion or life philosophy that would advance me the furthest, would I choose Evangelical Christianity?

There’s nothing that will advance a religion in society faster than to become the darling of careerists, as Constantine proved in the Roman Empire.  But along with that is the danger that the religion will be corrupted along the way, as Constantine and his successors also showed.  In my opinion, though, Evangelical Christianity will never have a chance at becoming the influential force in the upper reaches of our society it wants to be until a critical mass of people can answer this in the affirmative.

There’s no evidence that we’ve arrived at that critical mass.  And, if secular "religious tests" really take root in our society, that critical mass will not come together.  But there are two "wild card" variables that may alter that.

  1. A general systemic crisis (like the decline of dollar hegemony) would expose the weakness of the secularist house of cards.  To some extent this is what happened in the 1970’s, but not on an elite level (Jimmy Carter notwithstanding.)  But Evangelicals need to have their own "house in order" to take full advantage of this.
  2. Evangelicals need to play their two MO advantages more forcefully: dealing with transparency and integrity (while avoiding triumphalism and Napoleon Hill thinking) and living a lifestyle that is not self-destructive, thus not cutting their own careers short.

Reply to Susan Russell on Inclusivity and Grace

Kendall Harmon had a recent post on the Presiding Bishop’s webcast that included the statement, “There will be no outcasts in this Church.”  I could not resist responding as follows:

You cannot continue to give preference to one without slighting another, for selection implies rejection. You despise, therefore, those whom you thus reject; for in your rejection of them, it is plain you have no dread of giving them offence. (Tertullian, Apology, 13)

The concept of an “all-inclusive” church is simply unrealistic.

The one reply specifically directed at me came from no less of a personage than Susan Russell:

So is “love your neighbors as yourself.”
That’s why we’ve been given grace.

My first reaction was to think of the grace it took to go through the acrimonious back and forth I went through last summer with her fellow California homosexual Liam over same sex civil marriage and adoption.  (That whole business, however, has made a turn for the better with Liam’s comment on my latest posting on the subject.)  But the whole business of inclusivity and grace deserves a more in depth analysis.

Let’s start with inclusivity.  I said an all-inclusive church is impractical.  It’s not only impractical, it’s not Biblical either.  Consider the following:

“If your Brother does wrong, go to him and convince him of his fault when you and he are alone. If he listens to you, you have won your Brother. But, if he does not listen to you, take with you one or two others, so that ‘on the evidence of two or three witnesses, every word may be put beyond dispute.’ If he refuses to listen to them, speak to the Church; and, if he also refuses to listen to the Church, treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax-gatherer.” Matthew 18:15-17.

“I told you, in my letter, not to associate with immoral people– Not, of course, meaning men of the world who are in immoral, or who are covetous and grasping, or who worship idols; for then you would have to leave the world altogether. But, as things are, I say that you are not to associate with any one who, although a Brother in name, is immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or abusive, or a drunkard, or grasping-no, not even to sit at table with such people.” 1 Corinthians 5:9-11.

The point of both of these passages is to show that it is certainly possible for some people to be expelled from the church, or for the church to refuse fellowship to.  Some people just don’t have any business in the church: temporarily, hopefully, but still, some people don’t.  You can’t have an all-inclusive church with this possibility.  And, if I consider all the clerics who have been deposed (to say nothing of sued,) I begin to have my doubts that Rev. Russell is as up on the concept of an “all-inclusive” church as she might think she is.

Turning to the issue that seems to have everyone’s attention, I am one of those people who believe that the Biblical standard for sexual conduct—sex strictly between a man and a woman within the confines of Holy Matrimony—is non-negotiable.  Period.  It’s not my fault and it certainly isn’t God’s fault that the world has chosen to go another way, but it isn’t incumbent on Christian churches to follow suit just because everyone else says it’s a good idea.

If a church wants to be in sync with the world, it should simply adopt the sexual ethic of the culture around it and be done with it.  But that begs the question of why the church exists at all.  Under these circumstances the church becomes pointless, as I’ve been saying for the last ten years.  But if a church wants to be “salt and light” as so many do, then it needs to expect its members to adhere to the standard which God set forth.

Now Rev. Russell may not be aware of it, but I have enough ministry experience to know that a) people will fail and b) the church has an obligation to treat them pastorally and attempt to facilitate restoration, which is only possible if those people really want it and aren’t playing games or doing things for appearance sake.  But pitching out the standard for God’s people isn’t the way to solve this problem.

And that brings us to the issue of grace.  The whole concept of grace doesn’t mean much if we don’t consider it in an eternal perspective.  As I note in What is the Gospel?, the fall created a situation where people no longer had the resources to cross the divide between sinful people and a holy God.  Grace is what makes it possible for that crossing to happen, the grace made possible by Christ’s finished work on the Cross.  There is nothing we can do in this life to merit it; we can only accept God’s free gift.

Unfortunately “reappraisers” have muddied the issue of eternity.  Universalists tell us that everyone is going to heaven, so grace is meaningless, as is whatever we do in this life.  People who used to proclaim that “God is dead” sent the message that heaven was closed, which was a strong signal to many that eternity didn’t matter.  Then there are those who think that what we do gets us eternal life.  Good grief, we don’t need Christianity for that: my ancestors preferred the Lodge for that message, and now we have Islam prominently featured in our society that teaches the same thing.  Finally I get a whiff of universal annihilationalism from one of your Presiding Bishop’s statements.  Although I understand that one cannot get through life without God’s grace, messing up the vision of the eternal goal undermines any attempt at appealing to grace.

As far as loving one’s neighbour is concerned, my challenge to TEC on this point is here.

Three years ago, my wife and I visited Palm Springs.  Our flight left from Ontario on Sunday.  As we drove out of town, we could see the gay men at their favourite hangouts, taking in the morning.

The GLBT’s community in TEC—of which you are a prominent leader—does not face its greatest challenge from the reasserters.  You people have a knack for dealing with reasserters, although if you don’t use some wisdom it could cost you more than you anticipated.  Your greatest challenge is going to be to convince secular members of the GLBT community—and others—to give up their passing joy in taking in the morning and come to (and support) your church.  I’m glad it’s your job and not mine.  If you fail, the issue of inclusivity will be moot, because there won’t be anyone left to include.

Anglican parishes to ordain own clergy. And on the flip side…

A couple of days ago I took the Anglo-Catholics to task for their ambiguous position relative to Roman Catholicism and how they needed to decide whether they are in or out of the "true church."

It works both ways.  Now we see that that magnificent island which filled two continents with those who wanted or had to leave has a group of Anglican parishes which may start to ordain own clergy.  In an Anglican church, this is a definite faux pas.

There are really two issues here.  The first is that these parishes are proposing ordaining their clergy without permission of their superiors.  I’m not one for slavish, Gothardian subordination, but if you’re in a church with a hierarchy, deferring to that hierarchy in the matter of ministerial credentialing is a must.  You signed up for this system, you need to either stick with it or get out.  (You also seriously increase the risk of seriously unsuitable people going into the ministry with a lack of any kind of oversight.)

The second is the issue of the apostolic succession, which Anglican churches claim.  This is transmitted, for better or worse, though the bishops.  Without the bishops, that ceases to exist, and with it one of the advantages of the Anglican system.

British Anglican evangelicals need to do one of three things:

  1. Stick with the system they’re in,
  2. Become "nonconformist" and tough it out with the rest of us, or
  3. Do what the Americans are doing (I know it hurts, but it’ll be okay after a while) and seek help from those of like mind in the Anglican Communion.  But remember: the Africans are certainly evangelical, but they will not put up with the kind of insubordination contemplated against the Church of England.

There’s Catholicism and Then There’s…

The announcement that the Traditional Anglican Communion seeks full union with Rome isn’t really news. It’s been their objective for a long time.  The obvious dumb question here is, “why don’t they just swim the Tiber and get it over with?”

Part of the reason may lie in the fact that the Roman Catholic Church–wrongly, I believe–won’t accept Anglican ordinations.  I’ve always felt that this is punishment for having seceded from Catholicism as opposed to the Orthodox churches, which drifted apart.  But those who are priests and bishops in the TAC would doubtless like to continue their role at the altar once they’ve arrived at their desired destination.

A more noble reason is tied up with the TAC’s use of Anglican liturgies and practices.  Anglo-Catholicism is an attempt to make work what John Henry Newman could not: a synergy of Anglican and Catholic church life and practice.

Having been Episcopalian (pre-1979 prayer book) and Catholic at various times in my life, I always frame this issue in a simple way: the difference between my last service at Bethesda-by-the-Sea Episcopal Church and my first Mass at St. Edward’s Catholic Church, both in Palm BeachI’ve dealt with this issue before but perhaps an illustration would make things clearer.

Bethesda wasn’t quite an Anglo-Catholic church then, but the undertow was there: very formal liturgy (and trained acolytes to help with it,) paid youth and adult choirs to make sure they got it right, and very long (~1 hr 30 min) Holy Communions with all of Cramner’s antique prose topped off by the 1928 Prayer Book’s prayer for the dead.  And everyone dressed up for the occasion.

St. Edward’s was a whole different story: modern liturgy (the Novus Ordo Missae had only been official for two years,) no music at many Masses, no intonations of “Gawd” from the altar like the Episcopalians did.  Without music and with the right celebrant, thirty-five minutes and the sacred mysteries were done, at which point all of the men stampeded out in their golf shirts, presumably having made a tee time at the Everglades Club or the Breakers.  (Catholics’ way of dressing down for Mass was way ahead of its time.)

Anglo-Catholicism always liked a “frillier” form of Christianity, presumably because it looked and felt good and because it helped to drive home the sacredness of what they were doing.  Roman Catholicism can certainly do the ceremonial when the occasion calls for it, but the efficacy of the sacraments is driven by the nature of the church, not because of how elaborately the sacred mysteries are celebrated.

Although I have serious reservations about Roman Catholicism and the role of the church it espouses, if you’re going to be Catholic, do it right.  Swim the Tiber.  Use a life jacket if you have to.  If you’re not, do that right too and be a part of a church whose main mission is that of Jesus Christ himself: “The Son of Man has come to ‘search for those who are lost’ and to save them.” (Luke 19:10)

Turkey fears Kurds, not Armenians

America is not responsible for chaos in the Middle East. The Middle East has known nothing but chaos for most of its history. The colonial policy of the European powers after World War I left inherently unstable structures in place that must, one day, meet their reckoning. But America’s obsession with the surgical implant of democracy in the region forces it into a murderous game of whack-a-mole with a welter of armed ethnicities…

Live and let die, I propose instead. For the past seven years I have argued that the West cannot avoid perpetual conflict in the Middle East, and, rather than seeking stability, should steer the instability towards its own ends. Washington should forget about Turkish support in Iraq, allow the Mesopotamian entity to disintegrate into its constituent parts, while helping the Kurds maintain autonomy against Iraq. That would teach the Turks to bite the hand that feeds them. A pro-Western Kurdish state would strengthen Washington’s hand throughout region, with adumbrations in Syria and Iran as well as Turkey.

One should, of course, take Turkish interests into account. To restore its national dignity, Turkey should be encouraged to incorporate the Turkish-speaking (“Azeri”) minority of Iran, and so forth. Turkey ultimately may concede territory to an independent Kurdistan, but more than replace it by annexing portions of Western Iran. One cannot accord respect to failing nationalities; one can only let them fight it out. Breaking up Iraq will not foster stability. On the contrary, it will make the old instabilities a permanent feature of the regional landscape.

Read it all.  The most intelligent analysis on the subject I have seen anywhere.

But it should be remembered that the Turks were and are the must successful in keeping order in the Middle East.  They managed to do so for 500 years.  That’s more than the Arabs could manage.

A Fistful of Yuan: The Series Begins

Although blogging has become a big thing for me, I have other sites with more specific interests.  But one new feature may have some broader appeal: A Fistful of Yuan, which describes my family business dealings with the People’s Republic of China in the early 1980’s.  With the upcoming Olympics and all of the news about this Chinese import and that, it might be informative for some to find out just what doing business with the Chinese is all about.

Although I say the series "begins," just about half of it is presently online.  More is coming.

It’s at vulcanhammer.info, my newest site.  Click here for some other advice on doing business in China.