The Other Sheep of Jeremiah Wright

Now we can discuss something really important about Jeremiah Wright:

On Monday, Pastor Jeremiah Wright had the following exchange with the moderator at the National Press Club (transcript):

MODERATOR: “Jesus said, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man cometh unto the father but through me.’ Do you believe this? And do you think Islam is a way to salvation?”

WRIGHT: “Jesus also said, ‘Other sheep have I who are not of this fold.’”

To which Baptist commentator Denny Burk replies as follows:

Wright’s response clearly implies that Muslims are among the “other sheep” to which Jesus refers in John 10:16. Thus Wright affirms that people who do not have conscious faith in Christ can nevertheless have the hope of salvation — an inclusivist position that argues there are many paths to God…

Here’s the real import of what Wright said. Many people who hear Jeremiah Wright are likely to get the impression that Jesus is one of many paths that people might take to get to God. Jesus never taught any such thing. In fact, he always challenged His hearers with a stark choice. “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will hold to one and despise the other” (Matthew 6:24). Jesus would brook no rivals, and He only made salvation available to those who would “honor the son” (John 5:23).

The Jeremiah Wrights of the world mislead people into thinking that Jesus Christ is one path among many that people might take to get to God. Jesus taught just the opposite. There is only one path that leads people to salvation, and it’s Jesus. “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me” (John 14:6). To miss that path means forfeiting eternal life. The stakes couldn’t get any higher than that.

That’s unsurprising considering the denomination that Wright is in (United Church of Christ.)  But, as always, eternity is still what matters.

Women Bishops in the Church of England: It’s a Little Late to Stop Them

The fuss surrounding the "Manchester Report" on how to achieve women bishops in the Church of England overlooks a significant weakness in the argument against them: who really is the head of the Church of England?

Everybody knows the answer to that question (well, almost:) the Queen, who is the "Lady and Governor" of the church.  It gets worse; the first Queen Elizabeth was the one who oversaw the "Elizabethan Settlement" which gave Anglican Christianity its essential shape.

Now, you say, the Queen isn’t a bishop or cleric.  Well, that doesn’t really matter.  Headship is headship.  The monarch has always been involved in the life of the Church of England, very actively in its early years.  If the Queen is Rowan Williams’ superior (a thankless job, to say the least) then he is subordinate to her, and so it is with every bishop, priest, deacon and communicant in the Church of England.  And the headship objection is the centre of the Evangelicals’ opposition to women bishops.

Let’s take this a step further, and consider the royal Declaration concerning the Articles of Religion, as contained in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer:

BEING by God’s Ordinance, according to Our just Title, Defender of the Faith, and Supreme Governor of the Church, within these Our Dominions, We hold it most agreeable to this Our Kingly Office, and Our own religious Zeal, to conserve and maintain the Church committed to Our Charge, in Unity of true Religion, and in the Bond of Peace; and not to suffer unnecessary Disputations, Altercations, or Questions to be raised, which may nourish Faction both in the Church and Commonwealth. We have therefore, upon the mature Deliberation, and with the Advice of so many of Our Bishops as might conveniently be called together, thought fit to make this Declaration following:

That the Articles of the Church of England which have been allowed and authorized theretofore, and which Our Clergy generally have subscribed unto) do contain the true Doctrine of the Church of England agreeable to God’s Word: which We do therefore ratify and confirm, requiring all Our loving Subjects to continue in the uniform Profession thereof, and prohibiting the least difference from the said Articles; which to that End We command to be new printed, and this Our Declaration to be published therewith.

That We are Supreme Governor of the Church of England: And that if any difference arise about the external Policy, concerning the Injunctions, Canons, and other Constitutions whatsoever thereto belonging, the Clergy in their Convocation is to order and settle them, having first obtained leave under Our Broad Seal so to do: and We approving their said Ordinances and Constitutions; providing that none be made contrary to the Laws and Customs of the Land.

It’s strange that this, promulgated in 1562, was done under "Good Queen Bess," yet in the masculine gender!  Evidently they didn’t like the obvious then either!  The Articles were promulgated under the monarch’s "Broad Seal," which meant by her authority.

All of this, of course, doesn’t address the Anglo-Catholics’ objection of the priest as a representative of God, but that assumes that the whole Catholic concept of the priesthood has the sanction of the New Testament, which it doesn’t.

It’s time for the Church of England to face the obvious.  Perhaps the Queen ought to appoint a woman bishop or two and call some peoples’ bluff. The only way out of this is disestablishment, and that’s being kicked around these days too.  But this is another one of Anglicanism’s interesting incongruities, one more to wrestle with among so many others.

Jeremiah Wright: Ego Inflatable to Any Size

My church has a humourist who does an "Inflatable Campmeeting" routine, where he features a blow-up campmeeting with an inflatable campground, organ, pulpit, etc.  But no campmeeting is complete without general and state church officials, so they’re inflatable too.  For good measure, he throws in an additional remark about the officials: "egos inflatable to any size."

Evidently Jeremiah Wright falls into this category, as Bob Herbert notes:

Faster than anyone could have imagined, the young Mr. Obama became Senator Obama and then the leading candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination. Then came the videotaped sermons and the roof caved in on Rev. Wright’s reputation. Senator Obama had no choice but to distance himself, and he did it as gently as he felt he could.

My guess is that Mr. Wright felt he’d been thrown under a bus by an ungrateful congregant who had benefited mightily from his association with the church and who should have rallied to his former pastor’s defense. What we’re witnessing now is Rev. Wright’s “I’ll show you!” tour.

For Senator Obama, the re-emergence of Rev. Wright has been devastating. The senator has been trying desperately to bolster his standing with skeptical and even hostile white working-class voters. When the story line of the campaign shifts almost entirely to the race-in-your-face antics of someone like Mr. Wright, Mr. Obama’s chances can only suffer.

I’ve commented on Jeremiah Wright’s defective Liberation Theology and the fact that Barack Obama could have avoided all of this.  I’m sure now that Obama wishes he had in fact avoided Wright and his church.  One pastor told his congregation that his church members "have my back."  Jeremiah Wright, retired or not, needs to quit stabbing his flock’s most illustrious member in his if he wants to see the first African-American president this year.

This is a drama that only someone with a lifetime in a Protestant church can fully understand.  Hopefully all Christians will learn from it.

I’m Sick of Church Math

The "Exponential Conference" makes me, the author of this, needing to say a few things about all of the math that gets thrown around in the church world.

Obviously, on the face of it, exponential growth is what you want out of your "exponential church." But you need to think clearly about which exponent you want, not just that you want exponential whatever.  Let me use the number 2 as a simple example.

  • If your exponent is positive and greater than unity, you’ll get somewhere.  Thus, 22 = 4 and 23 = 8 (you’re really on a roll when you can cube things.)
  • If your exponent is unity, you’ll get nowhere, thus 21 = 2.
  • If your exponent is zero, you’ll get unity and nothing else, thus 20 = 1, and you’ll be "back to square one" in every sense of the word.
  • If your exponent is positive and the denominator is greater than unity, you’ll get a nice root, thus 21/2 ~ 1.414 (square root of 2) but you’ll end up with less than you started.
  • If your exponent is negative, you’ll get a reciprocal of what it would be if it were positive, thus 2-2 = 1/4 and 2-3 = 1/8.  In cases like these where the exponent is less than -1, you end up going in reverse.
  • If you end up with someting like 21/0, things either go to infinity or blow up, depending on how you look at it.

The most interesting case, from a theoretical view, is -11/2 = i, the imaginary number.

So you can talk about exponential church all you want, but unless you pick your exponent carefully, the result may not be what you wanted!

I am confident that examples of all of these in the church world can be found.

And don’t be quick to disparage the imaginary number either; the whole world of complex analysis, with its use in electrical engineering and vibrations, was developed from it.

Staying Ahead of Dick Morris

Staying ahead of Dick Morris isn’t easy, but it’s doable.  On the subject of Hillary Clinton’s real intention of staying in the race:

From my piece a month ago Hillary Clinton has Nothing to Lose by Ploughing On:

Hillary has no good reason to quit.

If she wins the nomination, she has a shot at the presidency.

If she loses the nomination, her anti-Obama propaganda has set up a win by John McCain.  And she can try again in 2012 much more easily if Obama loses the general election.

From Dick Morris’ new piece Is Hillary Preparing to Run in 2012?

Until the last vote is counted on June 3rd, we can chalk up her persistence to determination, courage and sheer obstinacy. But if she persists in her candidacy after the last primary, we must begin to consider whether she has an ulterior motive.

Does Hillary want to beat up Obama so that he can’t win the general election in November, assuring McCain of the presidency so that she can have a clear field to run again in 2012? Obviously, if Obama beats McCain, Hillary is out of the picture until 2016, by which time, at 69 years old, she might be too old to run. But if McCain wins, she would have to be considered the presumptive front runner for the nomination, a status which she might parlay into a nomination more successfully than she has been able to do this year.

The Cracked Plate: Commissioned for God’s Service

Archbishop Greg Venables of the Southern Cone gave a difficult commissioning address to those in the Anglican Network in Canada, departing as they are from their original church:

God is presenting us with an opportunity to say to an old and sad world with all its sense of nowhere to go, we have got to the end of our resoruces.  We have done all we can to transform this world, we have ended up where we started. We thought education would change everything.  But we do things as badly as the people before us, just more quickly.  This has happened because people have departed from the way God has provided through Jesus.  God has spoken through the word incarnate.

This great difficulty we are facing is God’s opportunity. Please see it as that. At moments like this the Lord will surprise everyone.  His authority.  He had every right to do what he wanted to do.  Jesus never justified himself.  Jesus has the power to do whatever he wants to do.

Jesus did what he wanted to do because he cared.  He does what he does because he loves us.  God is love. We are called to love the Lord our God with all our heart and mind and strength. We are stuck because we do not know how to do it.

You always find mixed motives in yourself.  We cannot hope to love, or consider how to love till we have accepted God’s love. To love you have to be loved. The first challenge we face is to be loved. Love those who disagree with us.  Lets love them.  Lets make sure that that love comes out in everything we do.  They are in a terrible place because they are denying the love of the Son of God.

We have to do something. The disciples were not volunteers.  Once you have been called you are involved.  You have been commissioned which means you are accountable.  You are called to obey. To do what God wants you to do.  We are living in the creation of God where God has spoken and we are called to obey.

Tim Gill: So Where’s the Equality and Progress?

Quark founder Tim Gill is making quite a splash, funding in a big way state legislative candidates who support same-sex civil marriage.  This was reported on the 700 Club a couple of days ago, and; you can see the video by clicking here.

Gill tells us he wants equality.  That should constitute progress.  I’ve dealt with this subject on numerous occasions, and so I’ll repeat some of the things I’ve said before.  First, from Considering Things Carefully:

The second is that civil marriage is inherently unequal.  There are people who are married and people who are not; this automatically creates an inequality.  Same sex marriage does not enhance equality, but only extends inequality to a new group of people…Christians lament of the state of civil marriage and oppose the creation of same-sex marriage, but frankly the basic Biblical reasons for marriage are no longer enshrined in U.S. law.  In the midst of all this the marriage rate continues to decline; obviously a good number of heterosexual people have determined that the disadvantages of civil marriage outweigh its advantages for whatever reason.

So where’s the equality?

The second comes from What It Takes to Experience Discrimination:

Liberals of all kinds have many explanations as to why people are persecuted and picked on.  They use morally loaded terms such as "racist," "sexist," "homophobe," and whatever other insult comes to their minds.  Doing it in this way demonises people, forcing them either to retreat to the background (if the liberal-induced attack allows that option, which it frequently doesn’t) or be forced to publicly "repent" of their "feudal attitudes," as Chinese Communists used to force people to do in "group struggle meetings" during the Cultural Revolution.  But the idea is always the same: attack people for what they "are" in a morally loaded fashion, with the result that they are either beat into submission (silence!) or come over to your side.

I find it ludicrous that secularist liberals–especially those veterans of the "sexual revolution" of the 1960’s, which was supposed to toss morality–always resort to moral pressure to get their way.  Even worse is to see people who scoff at the idea of a personal devil demonise people on a regular basis.

So where’s the progress?

The Country Where No One Satisfies

I’ve been pilloried for having doubts about Obama’s patriotism, but evidently Peggy Noonan has hers too:

Main thought. Hillary Clinton is not Barack Obama’s problem. America is Mr. Obama’s problem. He has been tagged as a snooty lefty, as the glamorous, ambivalent candidate from Men’s Vogue, the candidate who loves America because of the great progress it has made in terms of racial fairness. Fine, good. But has he ever gotten misty-eyed over . . . the Wright Brothers and what kind of country allowed them to go off on their own and change everything? How about D-Day, or George Washington, or Henry Ford, or the losers and brigands who flocked to Sutter’s Mill, who pushed their way west because there was gold in them thar hills? There’s gold in that history…

Mr. Obama? What does he think about all that history? Which is another way of saying: What does he think of America? That’s why people talk about the flag pin absent from the lapel. They wonder if it means something. Not that the presence of the pin proves love of country – any cynic can wear a pin, and many cynics do. But what about Obama and America? Who would have taught him to love it, and what did he learn was loveable, and what does he think about it all?

Another challenge. Snooty lefties get angry when you ask them to talk about these things. They get resentful. Who are you to question my patriotism? But no one is questioning his patriotism, they’re questioning its content, its fullness…

This is an opportunity, for Mr. Obama needs an Act II. Act II is hard. Act II is where the promise of Act I is deepened, the plot thickens, and all is teed up for resolution and meaning. Mr. Obama’s Act I was: I’m Obama. He enters the scene. Act III will be the convention and acceptance speech. After that a whole new drama begins. But for now he needs Act II. He should make his subject America.

Lack of real love of country is a leitmotif of this country’s elites.  That’s just the way they’re raised.  It’s that simple.  Obama took the long way around to get there, but he did.

But George Bush is doing, if anything, worse:

 

Here’s some comfort for him, for all Democrats. In Lubbock, Texas – Lubbock Comma Texas, the heart of Texas conservatism – they dislike President Bush. He has lost them. I was there and saw it. Confusion has been followed by frustration has turned into resentment, and this is huge. Everyone knows the president’s poll numbers are at historic lows, but if he is over in Lubbock, there is no place in this country that likes him. I made a speech and moved around and I was tough on him and no one – not one – defended or disagreed. I did the same in North Carolina recently, and again no defenders. I did the same in Fresno, Calif., and no defenders, not one.

He has left on-the-ground conservatives – the local right-winger, the town intellectual reading Burke and Kirk, the old Reagan committeewoman – feeling undefended, unrepresented and alone.

This will have impact down the road.

I finally understand the party nostalgia for Reagan. Everyone speaks of him now, but it wasn’t that way in 2000, or 1992, or 1996, or even ’04.

I think it is a manifestation of dislike for and disappointment in Mr. Bush. It is a turning away that is a turning back. It is a looking back to conservatism when conservatism was clear, knew what it was, was grounded in the facts of the world.

It’s hard in some ways to put a finger on his failure.  But I suspect that a lot of it is the consistent mistake of the Boomer right wing: to make the ultimate goal the reconstruction of the 1950’s.  I even hear that wish in Noonan’s own writings.  But Reagan didn’t even do that.  The 1950’s were an unusual and very transitional time in our history, and to look at them as a fixed ideal is a serious mistake.

 

Even worse is for Christian leaders to unconsciously make reconstruction of that era the first goal. Given a choice between aiming for a strong church and reliving an ideal where everyone seemed to believe like we did, Evangelicals can’t seem to resist the latter.  But resist we must.  Our survival depends on it.

Nuclear Power: Now They Tell Us

Greenpeace founder Patrick Moore connects the dots at last:

Greenpeace founder Patrick Moore says there is no proof global warming is caused by humans, but it is likely enough that the world should turn to nuclear power – a concept tied closely to the underground nuclear testing his former environmental group formed to oppose.

The chemistry of the atmosphere is changing, and there is a high-enough risk that "true believers" like Al Gore are right that world economies need to wean themselves off fossil fuels to reduce greenhouse gases, he said.

"It’s like buying fire insurance," Moore said. "We all own fire insurance even though there is a low risk we are going to get into an accident."

Greenpeace was itself fuelled in the 1970’s by opposing nuclear power.

But it’s more fun–then and now–to drive a movement like environmentalism with moral outrage and apocalyptic panic than with common sense, as I noted earlier this week.

But there are plenty of holdouts in the green world:

His critics, like Andrea Shipley, executive director of the Snake River Alliance, say he has simply sold out.

"The only reason Patrick Moore is backing something as unsafe and risky as nuclear power is he is being paid by the nuclear industry to do so," Shipley said.