More Than Dreams: The Trailer

Positive Infinity is pleased to launch its podcast with the video series More Than Dreams.  It is the story of five people whose search for real meaning in life led them to a direct encounter with God himself.  This week we feature the trailer for the series; in the coming weeks, we will feature the stories themselves.  You can find links to them in the comments below.

Pure Men and Women Too: A Lenten Poem

Pure men, and women too, all of the world unspotted,
That they might reach the heights to holy saints allotted,
That they might fortify the heart against life’s stress,
Composed such prayers as still comfort us and bless.
But none has ever stirred in me such deep emotions
As that the priest recites at Lententide devotions;
The words which mark for us that saddest season rise
Most often to my lips, and in that prayer lies
Support ineffable when I, a sinner, hear it;
“Thou, Lord of all my life, avert Thou from my spirit
Both idle melancholy and ambition’s sting,
That hidden make, and joy in foolish gossiping.
But let me see, O God, my sins, and make confession,
So that my brother be not damned by my transgression,
And quicken Thou in me the breath and being of
Both fortitude and meekness, chastity and love.”

Alexander Sergeivich Pushkin, 1836

The Real Meaning of Affirming Catholicism

In our last three posts on the different parts of Anglicanism, we’ve looked first at Anglo-Catholicism, then Evangelicalism, and after that the Charismatic renewal.  Now we turn our attention to a group of people who seem to have influence well out of proportion to their numbers, or for that matter to the substance of their message.  We’re talking about Affirming Catholics.

And the last point is the tricky part: it’s hard to figure out just what their message is, other than a) we need "unity" and b) we need to do so in a liturgically beautiful manner.  On the Affirming Catholics’ UK site, the "what we think" page is still "in the future," making one wonder about the thinking that’s supposed to be there.  Perhaps it’s like my Muscovite friend said about the Russians: act first, think later.  So we’re left to our own devices to sort this out.

As with any form of liberalism, an individual or group that attempts to affirm everything affirms nothing.  However, there may be a little method to their madness.  One thing that we’ve come to understand in the three studies that we’ve done on various components of Anglicanism is that many of these are the result of ideas being carried to their logical conclusion.  The Reformation is a classic example; it is Augustianian theology, which had loomed large for more than a millennium before Luther, taken to its logical conclusion.  The same can be said with Wesley and sanctification.  Is some of this going on with Affirming Catholicism?

We said that Roman Catholicism’s greatest mistake was to set the Roman Catholic Church up as a formal mediator between man and God.  That means that the church is free to define (or redefine) the terms and conditions of our relationship with God, both for this life and the life to come.  Roman Catholicism has a strong enough continuity to avoid some of the worst abuses of this, but not all of them.  And, if that continuity is broken, all bets are off, as is the case with groups such as the Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Since liberals are the breakers of continuity par excellence, with an idea like Affirming Catholicism they can proceed to redefine just about everything.  One only needs to look at the TEC since the 1960’s to see what this means.  It does explain one important shift in the rhetoric.  Back in the 1960’s liberals in the church tended to speak in strongly secuarlistic terms, such as the wholesale denial of basic Christian doctrine.  Today they talk in religious ones, even appropriating terminology and phrases from groups diametrically opposed to their idea.  The worst example of this are the endless claims that the move towards pansexuality are led by the Holy Spirit.   They swiped the idea that anything could be led by the Holy Spirit from the Pentecostal/Charismatic world.  No self-respecting Pentecostal, for example, would make statements such as this that are contrary to Scripture, even as he or she believes that the Holy Spirit still speaks today.  But, if you can redefine the religion, you can redefine God, or at least think you can.  As the Moody Blues used to say in Days of Future Passed, "But we decide which is right/And which is an illusion?"

Beyond that, a central hallmark of Roman Catholicism is that the church dispenses the grace entrusted to it through the sacraments.  The most prominent expression of that concept is eucharistic theology, where the transubstantiated Body and Blood of Jesus Christ are considered by some to virtually send people to eternal life by themselves.  But the Catholic church can read the New Testament, and knows that those who receive this heavenly food unworthily (for them by not receiving absolution through the sacrament of penance) will achieve an entirely different result from those who take the proper preliminary steps.

But Affirming Catholicism is about getting rid of restrictions such as this.  No where is this more obivious than their idea about baptism.  Their idea about baptism is simple: if it’s done, you’re in.  You have a "place at the table" and are eligible for anything from communion to ordination, irrespective of anything else you do or say.  The only thing you really have to do is to live up to the last clause in the Baptismal Covenant (that "contract on the Episcopalians") to spead peace and justice, and this is most easily done by getting the government to do the work for you through political action.

The only minor detail that Affirming Catholics forget is, once anything goes, a church is completely dispensible.  All that’s left to do is party, and since this was posted on Mardi Gras, that’s probably the most substantive result of Affirming Catholicism.

At the Inlet: June, Part 3 (A new job brings the end of dignity)

Table of Contents and Overview for At the Inlet | Information and ordering instructions for all of our fiction

Serelia’s palace compound was at the very northern tip of the peninsula on which Serelia town and Serelia Beach were situated; it took up about the same amount of space as a regular eighteen-hole golf course with club house and other amenities.  The living quarters for the royal family and the personal staff were situated at the northern corner of the compound, where the inlet (on the northwest side) and the palace beach (on the northeast side) met.  The Sea Garden, which faced the beach, essentially connected the living quarters to the palace proper with throne rooms, studies and reception and banqueting halls with a colonnade that ran behind the Garden.  Further down the beach were the living quarters for the Cathedral staff, an uninspiring three-storey concrete block building whose apartments facing the ocean gave a spectacular view.  Behind the apartments was the Cathedral itself.

On the lake side of the compound, the dock was just below the western corner of the compound.  At the south corner of the compound was the maintenance shed.  Between the two were some of the recreational facilities of the compound.  Between the maintenance shed and the main gate was the Bishop’s Palace, which meant that, when he was in the Cathedral, the bishop only needed to walk out of his front door, across the main road into the palace, and through another small gate to be at the Cathedral.  The entire palace compound was well kept and beautifully landscaped, a contrast with the slovenly look of the rest of the surrounding towns.  Just beyond the wall next to the Bishop’s Palace were the main ministries of state, such as the Chancellor’s office, the Foreign Ministry, the other ministries and of course Serelia’s intelligence and police services.

Terry’s quarters were actually in the royal living quarters, but on the inland side away from the apartments of the royal family.  She was to find out later that the apartment she lived in had actually been George’s before his brothers’ deaths made him Crown Prince; it was unoccupied until recently and the Queen supervised a hasty redecoration before Terry’s arrival.  It was almost as roomy as the house she had in Barlin, with a ceiling nearly 3m high, but the windows were somewhat small.

She didn’t have much time to settle in, though; the Serelians were more thorough planners than she expected.  After years in a laid back bureaucracy such as the Drahlans had, she was forced to hit the ground running the next day to meet with their requirements.

Her first stop was for a physical by the Royal Physician, who not only treated the royal family but had a patient list of all of the palace and cathedral staff and some people attached to some of the other ministries as well.  The office staff was overawed by her height of 182 centimetres, especially combined with her relatively diminutive weight.

“I am amazed that the King would retain a woman that the entire royal family is forced to look up to,” the doctor commented.

“That’s what the elevated throne is for,” Terry shot back.  The doctor also noted that the hunting knife she carried would not be permitted in the palace.

What she didn’t fully realise was that much of the basic information was being passed along to the Royal Serelian Constabulary, which was adding off of this information to her dossier.

When finished, Kyle escorted her to the building that housed both the Constabulary and the Royal Serelian Intelligence Service.  She was first fingerprinted and photographed; she mused to herself that this would have been her first act in Verecunda had her brother gotten his way.  She was then interviewed by Kyle’s superior, a portly man in his early 60’s named Norman Cameron, who turned out to be a Deputy Director and head of the Service.  Cameron’s modus operandi proved to be deceptively relaxed; all through their interview, people from both the Intelligence Service and Constabulary would drop by, be introduced to her, and in turn ask their own questions, especially if they were veterans of the recent war.  All the while Cameron went through every part of her life, from her birth and childhood in Verecunda through her years at the Avalon Retreat and then in Drahla.  He left no stone unturned; where she lived, her political and religious activities, her brief marriage and family, even her years into drugs and prostitution.  She struggled through much of it, almost tearfully from time to time; her mental state was not helped by the Serelians’ preference for very strong coffee.  The interview went on through lunch (which they brought in) and into a good part of the afternoon.  One point of the Serelians’ interest concerned her family history.

“Your grandmother was Chinese?” Cameron asked.

“She’s still living, the last I heard,” Terry said.  “Yes, she is.  My father’s father is from the mainland.  He brought her back from China, and my father was also born on the mainland.  When his father died, my grandmother moved to Verecunda to live near my father, who had moved there to start his business.  When he died she moved back to the mainland.”

“Do you speak Chinese?”

“A few phrases, perhaps…not really.”

“Have you ever been to China?”

“No, I haven’t.”

“Have you ever worked for either the People’s Republic or the Republic of China on Taiwan?”

“No—why do you keep asking me about this?”

He paused for a second.  “Until around the time of the cease-fire, we would not permit anyone with any non-white background to settle here or become a subject without a Royal waiver.  It’s a holdover from the collapse of Beran.  The fact that you have this in your background is still something of a novelty to us.”

“I hope,” Terry stated, “that the recent experience of your Prince and Princess on the other end of the Island would enlighten you on this subject.”

“I have no doubt that it will,” Cameron replied.  “We are finding that common values are more important than a common race.  But we are slow to change.  Perhaps you can help us with this.”  They went on with other topics; Cameron spent much of the last part of the session talking about her brother.  When he was done, he asked, “Do you have any questions for me?”

“Other than the basic facts,” Terry answered, “you haven’t really gotten into my religious beliefs.  Since you haven’t missed anything else, why not?”

“The ecclesiastical constable—there’s only one—is on holiday in Drago right at the moment,” Cameron explained.  “I’m sure he’ll want to spend time with you when he gets back.  I understand, though, that the King and Prince plan to take the matter up directly with the Bishop.”  With that the interview was mercifully complete; Cameron thanked her for her patience.  As she left his office, one of his secretaries presented her with a provisional drivers licence, photograph, data and all, for her signature.  “We have it on very good authority that you’re quite good at driving, Miss Marlowe,” Cameron observed, standing behind her.

“Very good authority, indeed,” Terry answered, cracking the first smile all day.

Her last appointment was another doctor’s visit, this time the gynaecologist.  She braced herself for yet another invasive procedure but she was in for a pleasant surprise: the doctor was also Darlene’s.  He was originally from Verecunda, and his father had been both her mother’s doctor and had actually delivered Terry when she was born.  Since it was the end of the day, he had some time after the examination to discuss other subjects.

“This has been a difficult day for me—I almost feel violated,” Terry sighed.

“You visited the Intelligence Service?” the doctor queried.

“Yes.”

“This is a strange country in many ways,” the doctor observed.  “In Verecunda, people wanted privacy, but they bared all any chance they got.  Here, everybody knows everything, but it’s a modest, conservative type of place.  What you went through with the police, though, is a product of the war.  The Crown was blindsided by King Henry’s declaration of independence.  They decided that wouldn’t happen again.  That’s especially true with you—everyone you talked with either fought in the war, had relatives who did, and everyone lost someone they knew or loved, like you.  When the palace announced you were coming, there was a lot of grumbling in the bureaucracy.  That’s probably why they allowed them to grill you the way they did.  But the worst is over—if they decide you’re okay, they’ll stick with you.  This is still very much a place of ‘the rule of men’ as opposed to ‘the rule of law,’ they just want to know who you are and whether they can trust you.”

“You left Verecunda, didn’t you?”

“Had too—my father wouldn’t submit to their nationalised health system, so they used the legal system to break him financially.  Broke me too—we were in practice together.  He tried moving to Collina but they caught up with him.  I went further.  It took a lot of getting used to, but we love it here. We’re the only ob-gyn practice this side of Alemara—we get a lot of patients from Drahla and Claudia, too.  My son came back here after medical school to go into practice with me.  Only hitch to that was that we had to get special permission from the King to bring his wife here.”

“Why?”

“She’s from India—they went into shock when they saw how dark she is.  When she first started teaching at the Cathedral School, some of her kids made fun of her colour—until the principal paddled the ringleaders.  After that they thought she was beautiful.  One thing about this place—if they invest someone with authority, they expect respect, no matter who they are.  Now she’s principal at St. Matthew’s School.  I’m not sure, but I think most of the grandchildren will come back here too.”

They talked for some time afterwards, but the workday was ending and it was time to go home.  Terry returned to the palace to dine with the staff; the Serelians weren’t much on salary, but their benefits were better.  After that she returned to her room and collapsed.

There was no rest for the weary; she was off again early the next morning, this time to the Chancellor’s office.  She was ushered in to Devin’s office, which was spacious and well appointed.  As she entered, she noted the requisite picture of the King behind his desk, but also one or two of the royal family; some in the photos were gone now.  But she was in for more than pictures; George was there along with Devin.

“We royals are supposed to be ‘out of the loop’ in this process until it’s done, but I wouldn’t miss this part for the world.”

Devin stood behind his desk, Terry in front and George to the side.  “It is normal,” Devin began, “for someone who is about to become a subject to take an oath of loyalty and fealty.  However, in your case, the transfer of fealty document that His Majesty executed is technically sufficient.  To be complete, though, we ask that you sign a declaration that you are in agreement with the terms and conditions of the transfer document.”  He handed her a sheet of paper, which she read for a minute.

“This is fine,” she said.  She laid it down on the desk and signed it.  Devin went ahead and witnessed the document, but to her surprise George witnessed it also.

Devin stood straight behind his desk, looked at Terry, and said, “You are now fully a subject of the King of Sererlia.  May God grant you long life and happiness in the realm of the King.”

“Welcome home, Terry,” George said, lightly hugging her.  She thought she caught sight of a tear in both Devin’s and George’s eyes.

“Is this process complete?” Terry asked.

“Well…not quite,” George said.  “There are some more people who want to spend some time with you.”

“Popularity is hard to handle around here,” Terry sighed.

The first person was Foreign Minister Paul Serlin, who was glad to see her again.  But he had a more specific purpose in mind.

“Our ambassador in Verecunda has noted that your name is listed in the proceedings for land restoration in both Collina and Uranus, as an heiress of Lucian Gerland.  President Dell personally came to him about your case in Collina just yesterday, when he got wind you were coming here.  Since you will be very involved with your duties here, would you like for us to handle some of the paperwork and appearances for you?”

Terry was caught off guard by this request.  It had been a long time since she had thought of the matter.  She considered things a minute, then said, “That would be very kind, although I would like to make the final decisions and the really important appearances.”

“That will be fine,” Paul said.  “We’ll put together the necessary paperwork to facilitate this.”  He paused, and then said, “You may be interested to note that we had a cross-border family reunion in May—we’re trying to sort some of our family divisions out.  We even had a reconciliation service at our church in Fort Morris.”

“I heard about that,” Terry said.  “Max never intended to cause the split that took place.”

“Life has so many unintended consequences, doesn’t it?” Paul asked philosophically.  He then took her to the Central Bank to set up her bank account.  The Bank was in a little confusion as they were changing the official currency from Verecundan to Alemaran.  They also brought up the issue of the proceeds from her house sale; Terry was getting used to everyone knowing her business before she did.

The last stop was the Ministry of Defence.  They wanted to talk with her about the war.  Terry was a little nervous about this part, but she found out that there wasn’t much the Serelians didn’t know about the Drahlan’s war effort.  The questioning was neither as intense nor as personal as with the Intelligence Service, but everyone in the office wanted to speak with her, and their hospitality was excellent.

With her ordeal of process over with, she returned to the palace, where some of the staff went through some of the ‘ins and outs’ of the palace itself.  When the evening was done, she collapsed more swiftly from exhaustion than she had the night before.
The next day, after breakfast she was escorted to the Crown Prince’s study.  It was on the top floor of the living quarters; it overlooked the palace grounds and looked out towards the lake and West Serelia.  She entered the room and her eyes first fell on Darlene, who rose to embrace her.

“Sorry for the ordeal we’ve put you through,” Darlene said.  “It seems that your ideal of Christian trust in government has slipped out of our grasp.”

“Maybe we can do something about that,” Terry said.  “But this is a dangerous world we live in—I guess it’s necessary.”

“Why don’t we stop and pray before we start our work?” Darlene asked.  “You always seemed to like that.”  They sat down and prayed for a long time about each other, the royal family, Serelia, Drahla and the whole Island, and other things.  After they finished Terry took her anointing oil and anointed all of the doors and windows of the study, praying that God’s Spirit would fill the place and them too in all that they did there and anywhere else.

With that done, Terry nervously eyed the extensive stacks of paper that surrounded them, but Darlene had some serious Bible questions, so they went to these.  That took up most of the day, after which Darlene started with a brief overview of the chartering process.  When the day was done, Darlene invited Terry to dinner with the royal family for a more proper welcome.

Terry’s life fell into a predictable routine more rapidly than she realised.  After her early morning prayers and devotion, she dined with the palace staff, then headed over to the maintenance shed for a brief Bible study and prayer time with a mixture of household and maintenance staff.  Most of those who came were members of Tim Mallen’s church, but as the summer progressed and turned into fall others would join in as well.  Then she came back to the study for her day with Darlene, starting off with Darlene’s Bible questions, then ploughing through the long stacks of charter petitions, both initial and amendment ones, taking their dinner and breaks for exercise or whatever they had in mind.

Terry was amazed at how, with the Serelians’ efficiency in other areas, how they had no standard procedures at all for processing charters, not even a consistent fee schedule.  Darlene explained that the King had always kept the process in the palace; it was an important instrument in the control of his realm.  Nevertheless they worked towards normalising the process, if only for their own sanity.

Teaching Darlene about the Bible also proved a challenge.  Terry had been teaching and preaching from the Word since her days in the Avalon Retreat but Darlene broke the mould as a student.  To begin with, after her return she went into it totally unaided, but soon got some help from her time during the hunt with Princesses Andrea and Julia.  Coming back to court and going into her pregnancy, things got disorganised again, so Terry’s first task was to focus her back on some basics.

This yielded mixed results, because Darlene’s interests went to two parts of the Word: the Gospels and the historical books.  The Gospels allowed Terry to show Darlene basic Christian principles, some of which Darlene knew and some of which she didn’t. As for the historical books, Terry had always found it an uphill battle to teach about these to most people.  In Darlene’s case, they were of special interest because of Darlene’s ancestry and current position.  Darlene would regale Terry with stories of old Beran and her ancestors’ deeds along with more recent ones, which allowed Terry to relate those to the Bible.  In the process of this they found they shared one perspective in common: that good things don’t happen because one simply follows a moral or doctrinal method but because people who love God and are led by Him go out and make it happen for His glory.

Once the day was done, Terry’s normal procedure was to dine with the palace staff again.  Unless she had something pressing, it wasn’t long before she retired, as she found herself exhausted by that time.

Waiting for the Cops to Show Up

The drama that is taking place this week behind closed doors in Tanzania has created a real guessing game in the Anglican Communion.  While we wait for the results–assuming there are meaningful results–let’s think for a moment about an obvious question: how has liberal “Christianity” held on as long as it has?

Everyone knows that liberal churches are going in reverse in terms of membership and revenue.  They have been for a long time; the Episcopal church is, believe it or not, doing better than most.  Nevertheless it surprises me that people continue to go to churches which really don’t believe much and which either are universalist–in which case what one does in this life is irrelevant to what follows–or don’t have a vision for an afterlife.

Perhpaps the problem is me.   Coming from a long line of people for whom meaningful religion was entirely dispensable, I cannot grasp the whole idea of going to church whose people are little different from the world around them, or whose beliefs are basically the same as the culture.  The “smells and bells” are nice but, honestly, a good stiff cup of joe at home on Sunday morning is preferable to a church filled with upper class people listening to a boring sermon whose content they could get from listening to NPR (NPR does a better job of holding your attention, too.)

In any event, liberal church does have appeal to some, but those who are turning from smells and bells to joe are more than those going the opposite way.  Moreover study after study shows that conservatives are more faithful to support a church financially than their liberal counterparts (which means that TEC would be better off making cash deals for property rather than taking departing congregations to court.)

The Episcopalians have elected a Presiding Bishop who is more up-front about her polticised, left-wing version of “Christianity” (if that word can be applied to what she believes) than any of her predecessors.  She’s prepared to fight for everything she can.  But what’s there to fight for?  And how can she win with declining membership, whether from apathy and revulsion?

One of the great legacies of Marxism is the concept of “historical determinism,” i.e., the idea that history is going the way of the theory that’s being propounded.  Although few American liberals are Marxists (they would be better off if they were,) they still revel in the idea that the world is going their way and that their opponents cannot win.  To some extent that is what motivates TEC liberals.  They still think that their way is the way of the future, and that their opponents will disappear, even though time after time they, like Engels sheepishly admitted, have been proven wrong.

Buttressing their idea is the thought that their philosophy will be reflected in the actions of the government.  The congressional election of 2006 has only given them additional hope. If we consider trends such as the emergence of hate crimes legislation, the use of child protection laws to take away children from real Christian parents, the application of the tax code to silence and destroy churches and other Christian institutions that don’t suit the fancy of those in power, all of these give the ultimate hope to the liberals at 815: that their opponents will not only be deprived of the church property they worship in, but also their freedom by the state.

To put it bluntly, Katherine Jefferts-Schiori may be figuring that all she has to do is to hang tough long enough for the cops to show up and haul her opponents away.  (Andrew Hutchinson in Canada is closer to that than she is.)

But this game hangs on two thin threads.

The first is that the system that she’s relying on can deliver.  In addition to the alternating course of politics, even if the liberals can “finish the job” and hold on to power for a long time, their inability to resolve Dzerzhinskii’s Dilemma virtually guarantee the weakness of such a state, and weak states don’t last.

The second is that the state doesn’t figure out that they don’t need a liberal church any more than anyone else does.  The Bible directly addresses this for the last times:

“And the angel said to me–‘The waters that you saw, where the Harlot is seated, are throngs of people and men of all nations and languages. The ten horns that you saw, and the Beast–they will hate the Harlot, and cause her to become deserted and strip her bare; they will eat her very flesh and utterly consume her with fire. For God has put it into their minds to carry out his purpose, in carrying out their common purpose and surrendering their kingdoms to the Beast, until God’s decrees shall be executed.” (Revelation 17:15-17)

The Harlot, of course, is the false “church” (religion would be a better term) of the last times.  The Beast–the Antichrist, the leader of the one-world government–will destroy the Harlot when he finds her dispensable.  That’s something that even Jefferts-Schiori should think of when she campaigns for the UN’s Millennium Development Goals.

So the left, while claiming to be “mainstream” and “Main Line” is in fact playing a dangerous game.  Today they wait for the cops to show up to take us, but then they will be waiting for the cops to come and take them away as well.

Charismatic Anglicans: The Missing Link

When many people hear of the Charismatic Renewal, they roll their eyes and pray that the conversation goes another way.  It is amazing that a movement that had such a wide impact in its day is not only forgotten but gleefully so.  There are a few holdouts out there–the Charismatic Episcopal Church is the main reminder, but there are pockets in the AMiA and even the TEC if one looks hard (and fast at the rate things are going) enough.

It is our opinion that the Charismatic Renewal was the great missed opportunity of North American Christianity in the twentieth century.  Had it succeeded, it could have stopped liberalism dead in its tracks and brought the disparate Christian groups and "traditions" (we hate that word but don’t know a good alternative to it) together in a more positive way than the sappy "ecumenical movement" could or can do.

But it didn’t do these things.  It did a lot to fuel an exodus out of the "Main Line" (the capitalisation is deliberate) and Roman Catholic churches into many places–in some cases classical Pentecostal churches, but more frequently conservative Evangelical churches and even more independent Charismatic churches.  It left these churches in the control of others: the Main Line churches in the hands of the liberals, the Roman Catholic church in the hands of John Paul II.

How did this result take place?  One problem was the lack of support from the hierarchy of their respective churches.  Their idea of renewing the church from within was ground to powder from above.  But another part of the problem was a lack of effective leadership, as we discuss elsewhere. Many of the leaders of the Renewal were inexperienced and basically not up to the job.

The one group of people with the experienced leadership that could have helped were the classical Pentecostals, but they (with a few exceptions) did not do so.  Part of the problem was a turf battle; after years of carrying the standard of the baptism in the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues, they looked askance at those who not only had found it without them but weren’t planning to join their churches after receiving it.

But another, more serious problem, was doctrinal.  Pentecostals had a very definite sequence of events in mind for the believer.  You first got saved, then you were sanctified (whether this was an event or a process was a matter of dispute) and then baptised in the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues.  Charismatics were unwilling to accept the Pentecostals’ rigid idea of holiness, leading one very prominent Pentecostal preacher to tell his denomination that there could be only one standard of holiness, not one in the North, one in the South, etc.  (We deal with what this could mean in At the Inlet.)  Moreover many Charismatics, although speaking in tongues, could not bring themselves to rigidly link tongues with the baptism in the Holy Spirit.

The Charismatics’ "open-ended" approach to tongues has led to much of the silliness that surrounds the subject today.  Many consider the whole thing as a "tradition" or a "spirituality" on par with meditation or whatever happends to be trendy at the moment.  They ignore the central role of Holy Spirit baptism had at the founding of the church or throughout the book of Acts.

Beyond that, however, the Charismatics’ greatest mistake surrounding the baptism in the Holy Spirit–the "missing link," if you please–is their overlooking of the importance of sanctification preceding the baptism.  Coming out of the Holiness-Wesleyan stream, Pentecostal pioneers knew that personal holiness had to be in place before the baptism in the Holy Spirit.  The alternative is chaos, which is pretty much what we had in the 1960’s and 1970’s.  Pentecostals’ concept of holiness in rigidly legalistic terms has come in for justified criticism–to which many Pentecostals have responded by chucking the whole holiness business altogther–but the idea is correct.

And this leads us to the centre of our contention: as shocking as it will sound to some, the whole modern Pentecostal-Charismatic movement is the end game of the English Reformation from a purely doctrinal standpoint, if not an institutional or liturgical one.  This deserves an explanation, and with God’s help we’ll give one.

Reformed theology made inheriting eternal life a simple matter: you had faith in God (an act which God caused,) your name was written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, and that was it.  There was no need for penance or the church, but there was no need for spiritual growth or having to do anything, good, bad or indifferent.  The logical end to this is a butt-sitting religion where people can pompously proclaim they’re going to heaven without any further action on their part.  Mercifully many members of Reformed churches have not "connected the dots" in this way, and they are a blessing to themselves, the people around them and to God himself.

But, when things get across the Channel, there’s Article XVI.  The whole idea that people can fall way ("backslide," to use the traditional terminology) implies movement.  If people can move back in their relationship with God, they can move forward.  This turns the Christian life from a static to a dynamic business.  It puts movement into one’s relationship with God.  It also puts movement into one’s life to serve God and to do the work that he left us here to do.  The "fuel" behind this, from Jewel to Wesley, is sanctification, personal holiness that enables the believer to “… lay aside everything that hinders us, and the sin that clings about us, and run with patient endurance the race that lies before us…” (Hebrews 12:1b)  Sanctification as the work of the Holy Spirit means that God interacts in a positive with us after we are reborn in him.

And this leads us to the baptism in the Holy Spirit.  It is more than a tradition; it is rooted in the early church from the day it started.  But, as explained in LifeBuilders Essentials, it is not a principally emotional experience either.  It is the "fuel" to empower the believer to share one’s faith with others in whatever way that God has directed an individual to do so.  Once again the idea is the same: progress for the individual in one’s walk with God, and progress for the church as it seeks to fulfil it’s God-given mission.  This is why, after barely a century on the earth, so many Christians consider themselves to be Pentecostal or Charismatic, and show the gifts and manifestations that go with that.  But in the process many were saved through the exercise of the same power, so the movement that is seen to be demonstrative is also evangelistic.

So where does this leave Anglicans?  Like the Charismatic Renewal, Anglicanism is one of those great missed opportunities in Christianity.  As we explained in Taming the Rowdies, the Church of England started off with everything: state support, Protestant doctrine (with the seeds of fixing the Reformation) and a rich liturgical worship.  Unfortunately the whole thing got caught up in both the doctrinal tug-of-war between Reformed and Catholic and in the socio-economic conflicts of seventeenth-century England.  The result was that the truly comprehensive, scriptural Anglicanism of Elizabeth I died with Laud and Charles I.  Ever since too much of Anglicanism has felt duty-bound to present a "nice" religion that didn’t offend people or create controversy, and in North America that meant one whose primary appeal was to the upper reaches of society.

But that wasn’t the original idea.  And there’s no reason why Anglicans can’t be the leaders in the sweep towards the new Pentecost that they, in one way, initiated.  There’s no reason why liturgical worship cannot be Spirit-led (it has been done.)  And there’s no reason why the religion whose foundational doctrinal statement implies the important of forward movement cannot emphasise personal holiness instead of losing itself in aesthetics or social niceties.

But one major obstacle to the last point is the emergence of the business of "Affirming Catholicism," and it is to this we will turn next.

Rudy Giuliani and the Dilemma of Christian Conservatives

It’s no real surpise that Rudy Giuliani is running for President.  The surprise comes in how well he does in polls of Republicans.  The apparent attempt of the party’s higher echelons to "crown" John McCain early and avoid a hard primary/caucus season is not going as well as planned.  What your opinion of this depends upon what kind of outcome in this coming election you’re looking for.

For Christian conservatives, the 2008 Presidential election looks to be an unpleasant business.  Neither of the two social conservatives in the race (Brownback and Huckabee) look to be able to get sufficient traction–and a lot of that traction means money–to move forward into the primary moment (and this time, we mean moment.)  None of the "front-runners" really catches fire: McCain has ben erratic in just about every way, Romney is LDS (and erratic in his own way,) and Giuliani, in some ways conservative, is a social liberal in many others.  What’s a Christian conservative to do?

The answer to that depends upon what how one see the best approach for Christians to take in our society.  There are, in reality, two possible options.

The first is what we call the "level playing field" option.  We touched on this in our 2001 piece entitled, appropriately enough, Levelling the Playing Field.  In this the primary duty of the state is to create a fair enviroment by which people can both practice their religion as they see God directing them and share it openly with otheres.  In many ways this is what has been attempted by our current constitution, although our system does presuppose the existence of a God who is able to endow his creatures with inalieanable rights.

The greatest threat to this has been and is the expansion of the role of the state.  The state has its own interests, values and desires from its people; Christianity, with its primary focus on God as the ultimate authority, is in many ways a threat to those interests, values and desires.  As long as the state is relatively small and Christians do their usual loyal service to the state, things are fine.  When the state expands and anti-Christian groups use that expansion to further their own agenda, we have the problems present today.

The second is the "Christian nation" option.  In this Christians seek acknowledgment that we are a Christian nation, have been from the beginning, and need to continue to be if we are to be a successful nation.  Those Christian roots need to see their way into our legal system and national life in every way possible.  Christian conservative thought has gravitated in this direction largely because liberals have used the state to their advantage.  Christians figure that, if liberals can do it for evil, why can’t Christians do it for good?

There are several ways to answer that question.  From our perspective, the biggest problem is that Christian conservatives do not have a viable game plan to establish a really explicitly Christian nation on the North American continent.  To start with they are not willing to put together the state church necessary to implement the uniformity of belief necessary in such a situation (just think about uniting all of the conservative denominations and you will see what we mean.)  Many of them are unwilling to accept the hard realities of nationhood in a world where power challengers abound and the power to respond effectively to all of them is limited (the neocons are, if anything, worse in this regard.)  And last but not least theonomic Christians are not willing (mercifully) to even admit the need of the army of Joshua to achieve their objectives.  Liberals have this idea that theocracy is around the corner, but evangelical Christianity in the U.S. is better suited to help ordinary people live their lives successfully than to implement their plan on a nationwide basis.

Enter Rudy Giuliani.  Although he was for many years a U.S. Attorney, his best known position was that of Mayor of New York.  This is not an easy job; New York is a place with a plethora of obstructionist interest groups accompanied by lawyers who love to sue.  Guiliani, with the memory of the 1970’s behind him (the city basically went broke and the crime went wild) realised that New York, financial capital though it was, would not prosper without some significant improvement in the quality of life.  So he began by concentrating on the petty crime: panhandlers, squeegee operators, etc.  His idea was that, if you could clean up the petty crime, the major things like murder and armed robbery would be a lot simpler.  His strategy worked; all of these crimes declined under and the city became a place people really wanted to come to again.

11 September 2001 was Rudy’s defining moment, the place where he showed himself to be a leader.  In that moment he became America’s Mayor.  The city that preferred to go in many directions went in one.  The subsequent course of the "war on terror" showed that the first response was the best thought out, even though it was implemented "on the fly."  There were certainly mistakes and unhappy people in its wake, but one expects this, especially in a place as hard to pull together as New York.

Giuliani’s specialty is the one thing government needs to be good at: public order and security.  We can talk all we want about "righteousness" in government, but a government that can’t properly defend the country or deal with internal threats to public order isn’t much of a government.  The present administration has at least been able to quell domestic terrorist attacks, even though they have sqandered too many resources on adventures like Iraq and overlooked other kinds of threats to public order like Katrina.  The left, mired in Dzerzhinskii’s Dilemma, are at a serious disadvantage in these matters, even though they will use the power of the state to knock down rivals like evangelical Christians.

Given all of this, Christians are a tight place.  Our game plan the last thirty years or so hasn’t moved our agenda forward.  Our elites are still as liberal and unpatriotic as ever, perhaps more so today, and still find it too easy to project their values downward on our schools and other institutions.  Our attempts to "hold it in the road" on Christian sexual and family values such as the exclusivity of sex within marriage and the permanence of marriage have had uninspiring results.  Abortion on demand is still legal after all of the marches, all of the prayers and all of the elections.  Last but not least years of prosperity teaching have lifted some out of poverty but have not moved evanglical Christians significantly upward as a group in society.  To put it another way, we not only cannot "take the city," we struggle to hold things together in our own churches.

Perhaps the time has come to re-emphasise the "level playing field" option, where we focus on preserving our freedoms to both operate the church autonomously and share our faith with others.  What good does it do to bring children into the world to have them taken away by a left-wing state (or a jihadi one) and have their eternal destiny spoiled?  How much value would a "righteous" state be if it could not intelligently defend itself or advance its interests properly (this is the central problem we have in Iraq.)  And how meaningful is Christianity when it is imposed by the force of law in a theonomic situation?  (To see how this plays out, just look at Europe.)

Is Giuliani someone who would make the playing field level again?  These are questions that we need to ask him and any other candidate for President.  To dismiss him out of hand is a serious mistake.  While considering Giuliani and the other candidates, the time has come for Christians to look at what they are doing in the political arena, set some realistic and worthwhile objectives, work more diligently to strengthen our own churches, and realise that the state has definite limits in what it can and should do.  To miss the last point–which too many Christians are doing these days–only validates our statist opponents, and that’s the last thing we need to do.

At the Inlet: June, Part 2 (A marriage and an exile)

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The next day was Pentecost Sunday, always a day of celebration at church, but for Terry everything was a blur.  Monday she came into her office to clean out her things; Prince William would act as his father’s chief subordinate until the elections took place.  The capital’s rumour mill, abuzz enough with William and Cathy’s romance, now added Terry’s future to it.  She spent the next few days resting and spending time with friends and church people she hadn’t had a chance to in a long time.

Later in the week, however, William’s lackey came to her house and announced that the King wanted an audience with her.  She following him to the palace, but again instead of the throne room she once again went to the study.  She entered to find not only the King, but Queen Janet, Princes William and Dennis, Princess Andrea and soon to be Princess Catherine.  The King especially had a grave look as he bid Terry to be seated.  The princes secured the doors and returned to their places.

“Did you solicit this?” the King asked Terry, handing her a piece of parchment.  Terry unrolled it to read a very formally worded and beautifully styled request (she suspected Darlene’s doing on the calligraphy) from King Adam that requested King Henry to release his subject and servant, Terry, from Henry’s service into Adam’s, specifically to be the administrative assistant and spiritual advisor to the Princess Darlene.  As she read the legalese, her eyes widened in astonishment.  She then looked up at the royal family.

“I did not,” Terry said.  “I am in total shock as much as you are.”

“You expect us to believe that?”  William asked.

“I do, God being my witness.”

There was a pause in the room.  Then Henry chuckled and said, “The old buzzard was always the expert in feudal law.  You could probably count the number of requests like this on one hand since Beran broke up.”

“So what are you going to do about this?” Dennis asked Terry.

“It’s not her decision,” Henry flatly stated.  “It’s mine.  However, since I am about to become the Island’s first constitutional monarch, I guess I should at least give her the opportunity to express her desire in this matter.”

Terry knew she was in a tight place; her palms were moist and she trembled.  “Your Majesties, Your Highnesses, my only desire in this case is to minister to a soul which I led to the Lord, and that soul is the Princess Darlene’s. She is the first descendant of the Kings of Beran to have accepted Christ as her personal Lord and Saviour, and if we have any plans of a really new Beran, she is crucial to that plan.  I understand better than anyone the gravity of my taking a position with the country with which we fought such a bloody war of independence.  But as Samuel de Champlain used to say, ‘The salvation of one soul is worth the conquest of an empire,’ and I am prepared to endure whatever hardship befalls me to accomplish that.”

There was a silence in the room, only accompanied by the sniffles of the princesses.  Then Henry leaned forward and said, “I want you to take this position.”

“You do?” Terry asked, stunned.

“Absolutely.  I was a fool to give in to the delegation—my children never tire of reminding me of this.  The charter cities’ objective is to establish a republic like Alemara.  The monarchy in Drahla is in a fight for its life.  I have asked William to be the representative to this new-fangled council from Barlin—I at least got the option to appoint him at the start.  Dennis is my special envoy to the rest of the Island.  Our newest addition, Catherine, is of course at the Central Bank—as you have observed, our friends on the coast will find her a challenge. As our friend, you in Serelia are an important part of our survival as the rulers of Drahla—especially if we fail.

“The wedding is set for two weeks from Saturday.  You will go ahead and officiate the ceremony, then use the activity of the reception and all that to slip out.  Don’t make any direct contacts with the Serelians—Cathy will be your go between, she visits their embassy often as it is.  This plan must not leave this room; I trust the Serelians will keep it under wraps also.”

“It’s hard to believe,” Dennis added, “that the people who benefited most from what you gave have turned on you like this.  We’ll never be able to repay you for what you’ve done—both in affairs of state and spiritually as well.”

“I hope you find happiness in Serelia, even though it breaks my heart to see you go,” Janet said.

“We need to pray,” Andrea stated.  “We’re all facing some major things here, even though I’m ashamed to say my relatives are a big part of the problem.  But no matter what, God can turn this around for the best, because all things still work together for those who love God and are called according to his purpose.”  They repositioned themselves into a circle, joined hands, and entered into a time of concert prayer—the first time the Drahlan royal family had prayed together about anything.  After a long time of groaning and weeping before the Lord, Dennis took some oil and anointed Terry, who in turn anointed all of the royals, even the King and Queen.  After these things they dined together, discussing the wedding and everything else but the plans for Terry’s departure.

The next two weeks were feverish ones, weeks of preparation for all kinds of things.  Cathy was the shuttle diplomat for Terry’s departure; it gave her a chance to spend time with her old friend. That time was limited since she additionally had to both assume her duties as Managing Director of the Bank and prepare to be William’s bride.  She was amazed at how quickly a royal wedding could be put together, but Janet was experienced at this.  Cathy’s new duties at the bank were facilitated by the fact that the coastal cities—and the northwest for that matter—were more focused on their own election campaigns for the provisional council, as the elections were scheduled for the Monday after the wedding.

The rumour mill found a new high gear during this time.  The palace was finally forced to issue a statement that Terry was going abroad for an extended period after the wedding, which only increased people’s curiosity.  Terry found herself bombarded with questions about this, as did both those who did know and those who didn’t.

Terry baptised William the Sunday before the wedding.  The royals were forced by circumstance to let Vernon Calloway in on the secret, which made it possible for him to make arrangements for some of Terry’s ministerial duties, such as teaching at the Bible school.  The whole process made everyone a little manic-depressive, excited one minute and down the next.

The wedding day finally came.  Because the church was an open structure, the weather was a major factor; they had the wedding in the morning to beat the afternoon rains, and in this they succeeded.  Drahla’s new status on the Island meant that the guest list of dignitaries was unprecedented for them.  The Serelians sent Prince George and their Chancellor, Devin Dillman.  Although this was the first time since the trip that Terry had actually seen George, they interacted little by agreement.  From Alemara came their current President, Clark Garrison, along with their Finance Minister, Morrison Keller.  The Vidamerans sent Queen Helene and her son, Prince Victor.  The Aloxans sent Prince Marc and Princess Bernadette; they had to be especially careful that they were covered every time they sent someone out of the country.  From Collina came the Finance Minister, Rosa Mott, who like Cathy used to work in the Central Bank of Verecunda but whose father had been killed in the war of independence.  Even the Claudians came out of their shell for this one, sending their Grand Worshipful Master Theodore Macken.

Subject to the usual limitations the Drahlans worked under, the wedding was worthy of the guest list, and the people from within Drahla itself filled the church to overflowing.  The wedding went well, but it took all of Terry’s ministerial professionalism to get through it.  The most moving moment took place at the end where, at the request of the couple, those who had been approved came forward to lay hands on William, Cathy and William’s children in concert prayer for their marriage and their governance of Drahla.  This was usually a more spontaneous affair in a Pentecostal church, but for security reasons those who came forward to pray were prequalified and searched; the Drahlan security personnel were still nervous through the whole process.  Some of the foreign guests were a part of this, including the Aloxans, Alemarans, and even Prince George.

When the bride and groom had recessed out of the church along with the rest of the wedding party, everyone began to make their way to the Royal Pavilion for the reception.  Terry for her part started to do the same thing, but at the right moment slipped away and scurried toward the Serelian embassy, her only possession at that point being her new Bible.

When she arrived, the SUV waiting to take her away was waiting out back.  “We’re glad you’re coming with us today,” said Kyle Harmon, the young man who had guarded the yacht when it was tied up at Alemara during the trip.  Kyle opened the back door and Terry got in.  “Your things are already in the back—we’ll make arrangements to move everything else next week.”  Kyle closed the door and went around to start the vehicle and began the journey to Serelia.

One of Terry’s last achievements as Royal Counsellor was to convince the council at Fort Albert to allow a public road to be designated through the orange groves from the Fort to Barlin.  It wasn’t much; it was dirt in most places, but it was passable.  Terry was one of the first beneficiaries of her work as the SUV bounced through woods, swamp and groves.

At the edge of the groves, Kyle said, “This country brings back memories, doesn’t it.”

“This is about where Prince George was captured.”

“You ever think you’d be coming to our court to serve?”

“Never did,” Terry said.  “God has a great sense of humour.  Since they abolished my office, sometimes I know how He felt before the Flood.”

“They’ll figure it out,” Kyle said.  “A lot of people in Serelia think it’s funny, but it’s really not.  Our two nations are too close—when one hurts, we both hurt.  But that’s what always amazed me about Alemara when I was posted down there—the endless yammering in the press about the silliest things, and yet things just keep getting better and better.  It’s just the way things get done in a democracy.  They’ve got a first rate security and intelligence service, too.”

They drove on towards Fort Albert; the road improved as they went.  “Her Highness is really excited about your coming.”

“I am too—she’s why I’m doing this.”

“Whatever you told her coming home made an impact—she spends a lot of time reading the Bible.  Our Bishop is about to go crazy over it—afraid you’ve made her change her religion, so she’ll disestablish the church.”

“That’s not what I was trying to do,” Terry said.  “Darlene is precious—I want to make sure I spend eternity with her.  Besides, I was witnessing to Cathy Arnold anyway.  I couldn’t resist.”

“Princess Catherine is King Henry and the princes’ ace in the hole,” Kyle observed.  “Drago and the rest want two things—a republic and easy credit.  She’s see to it they’ll get neither.”

They reached the Old Beran Road just south of Fort Albert and, turning left, went through the Fort and northward to Serelia.  As they did, things got quiet and Terry had time to look out of the window at the country she had served and ministered to for more than fifteen years.  Although she was looking forward to being with George and Darlene again, she couldn’t shake the feeling that, somehow, she was leaving her freedom behind and going into exile for some crime she had committed.

As was the case the last time she came to the border crossing, she was waved through.  Once again she came up on the supremely nondescript Serelia Beach and Serelia.  She did notice, though, that quite a number of septic tanks were going in people’s back yards.

“We’re going to fix this lake,” Kyle said.  “The tanks were one of the main sticking points with the Verecundans—they always maintained that septic tanks were ‘an affront to the Earth.’”

“Takes one to know one,” Terry quipped.

“We’re still working on the water treatment and sewer contracts,” Kyle said.

They almost reached the palace, but Kyle turned off to the right and went to the Prince Arthur Inn.  They pulled up to the front.  “They weren’t sure when you were coming—they want to do a proper presentation tomorrow afternoon.  I told them not to give you the suite your brother usually stayed in.”

“Thank you,” Terry replied.  He went around to open the door; she got out.  They went in and he made sure her room arrangements were in order, and then left her with her things to be taken up by the hotel staff.

She was not in a mood to socialise; she spent a lot of time in prayer and finally feeling the impact of the change she was about to make.  As the sun set, she took her supper on the deck which overlooked the ocean.  After years of being inland, the sea breeze felt good; it had rained a bit as they went up but now the sky was breaking up and she could see the clouds in their graceful formations, lit from behind by the setting sun.  She recalled Darlene’s letter about feeing the presence of God just up the coast; she too felt His presence preparing her for a life in a place she had literally fought for years, but now greeted with a combination of nervous anticipation and peaceful acceptance.

Terry rose early to make the long walk from the Inn down to a house several blocks away.  There were about a dozen people there, who looked at her coming with suspicion; however, when they realised who she was, their greeting was joyful.  The people were part of the Serelia Pentecostal Church, which was part of Terry’s church and whose pastor, Tim Mallen, had been a student of Terry’s at the Drahlan Bible school.  Mallen was both surprised and happy to see her, as were the members who were part of the palace staff and who remembered her from her last visit in March.

The service started about 0830, to accommodate those staff members who had cooking duties at the palace and Cathedral.  Because the church was illegal under Serelian law, they took the usual precautions of any house church. The worship was subdued by Drahlan standards, but the church was well organised, and included a nursery and a complete order of service.  Mallen gave the pulpit to Terry, who simply told the story of how she was forced out of the Drahlan government and how she would be now working for the Serelian.  The congregation responded with an extended time of prayer for Terry.  She had promised to be back to continue God’s work in Serelia during her last visit; her return was taken by the congregation as a sign from Him that she was being sent to Serelia for His purpose and mission.

The service wound up about 0930, not only so the palace staff members could get to their duties, but also so that Pastor Mallen could move on to conduct services for the three additional cells of the house church that he pastored, which extended from Serelia and Serelia Beach to West Serelia.  Terry returned to the Inn, ate and got ready for presentation at court.

Kyle came by about 1445 to pick her up.  They made the short drive to the place and through its gate.  By then it was raining and messy.  She opted to leave her shoes in the foyer of the palace before entering the throne room; the staff who greeted her understood their challenge of finding women’s slippers big enough to accommodate her ample feet, so she opted to enter barefoot on the long Oriental rug which led up to the throne.

She positioned herself at the entrance to the throne room.  Her whole being was in knots.  The last time she was there, she was a head of government and in the company of a Prince of her realm.  Now she was virtually stateless and presenting herself as a member of the palace staff.  Terry was well aware of the limitations of the glory that came with a high position like she had before, but such a transition could not help but be a difficult moment for her.

The doors to the throne room were opened and she walked in slowly.  King Adam and Queen Annette were on their thrones; next to the Queen was Prince George.  Their demeanour was more relaxed and friendly than it was before, but they still observed the formalities of the moment.  Terry stopped at the appointed spot and bowed before her new sovereign.

Terry was at the bottom of her bow when she heard a woman’s voice from the left.  “Terry!” it screamed.  She looked to see a very pregnant Darlene at the threshold.  Darlene literally ran over, arms outstretched, to greet her friend.  Terry went down on her knees, not to be servile but to overcome the difference in their heights.  They hugged each other and cried for a long time.  “I’m so glad you’re here,” Darlene went on and on.  After being together like this for a long time, they suddenly stopped, looked at each other in astonishment, then looked up at the throne.  Terry rose to her feet, but the two had their arms around each other.

“I think we have just wrecked the protocol of this palace,” Terry said.

Adam chuckled, along with Annette and George.  “I don’t think any further greeting here is necessary,” he said, “but tea and coffee are ready in the parlour.”  They went in, Darlene holding Terry’s hand and pulling her in like a child in a store wanting her parent to see a new toy.

They sat down for service and chatted about Terry’s trip and the other events that made the moment possible.  Finally Adam rose to make a more formal statement.  Terry also rose to receive it.

“The release that brought you here,” Adam began, “is a very rare procedure on this Island.  It was initiated in the years immediately after the collapse of Beran to enable to movement of servants and officials from one kingdom to another, as many people found themselves in difficult places as events unfolded very rapidly.  I know that I have never made this kind of request before during my reign, and I do not believe that any other kings have since the 1950’s.

“When we learned of your misfortune and the abolition of your position, we had a lively”—he looked at Darlene—“debate on whether we should make the most of it.  In the end I decided to request your release.  One thing that I have learned about the Princess is that her outpourings of emotion conceal the fact that she is very sparing in her choice of close associates.  These outpourings, though, illustrate that, once she makes up her mind about someone such as yourself, she is very single minded in their pursuit—something we learned all too well during her courtship with my son.”  Everyone got a chuckle out of that.

“We are as sensitive as anyone,” Adam continued, “in the depth of your transition.  We know that you, both as an official of state and a minister in your church, were a respected person in your home country.  For you to leave all of this behind and come to the court of those who were until recently your enemy is a big step, and we will do what we can to make that step as painless as possible.  One of the things that we discovered during your voyage to Verecunda and Aloxa is that you have a prodigious capacity for forgiveness and reconciliation.  It is our desire that your presence here will be your reward for that, both for you and also for us.

“As for your duties, as stated in our request you are both an administrative assistant and a spiritual advisor to Her Highness.  You are experienced enough in the workings of government to know how important it is for any government to issue charters for the various types of commercial and other activities that our subjects might conduct.  We have determined that, not only have the difficulties of our situation made us in arrears in issuing and reviewing these charters, but also that it was time for a member of the royal family to look at these herself to insure that the interests of the Crown are not neglected in the bureaucratic process.  We have assigned this task to the Princess Darlene; unfortunately, the clerical help we normally employ has been reassigned due to staffing shortages.  So assisting her in this task will be your primary duty.

“As for the spiritual advice, we have noted the change in Her Highnesses’ views on this subject since her return from the voyage.  Although we had initial reservations about this, we have come to realise that these changes are beneficial to the long-term interests of the nation.  As you were instrumental in these changes, we believe that your presence here will be a positive one.  That presence, however, poses some unique problems, because the church you are affiliated with is not licit in our realm, as the Church of Serelia is the only recognised religion.  How we will work though this problem is an unanswered question, but given what we have accomplished so far, I am confident that a satisfactory solution to this difficulty can be found.”

With this the King ended his speech.  After a pause Terry responded.  “I want to thank you for your gracious invitation and the confidence that you have placed in me.  This too is a big step for you also, in view of our recent war.  My ‘capacity for forgiveness,’ as you state it, comes from my conviction that forgiveness and reconciliation is God’s way for all people, even though that can be difficult to carry out in matters of state.  My reward for that will ultimately be eternal, as my own Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ forgives me as I forgive others.  But all of His eternal benefits have earthly ones too, and I gratefully accept those from Him and from you.”

“There is one important matter we’ve overlooked in all of this speech making,” George said.

“And what is that?” Adam asked, a little miffed.

“The fact that, as the ‘mother country,’ we do like to wear shoes up here.  I think that we should show her what these things are and what they’re for.”

“Don’t be so cocky about this,” Darlene came back.

“Why not?” George asked.

“You’ve never been to the shoe store with her,” Darlene replied.  “We may not have her size here in Serelia.”

Anglican Evangelicalism: The Limitations of Augustinian Theology

In a previous post, we discussed the problems of Anglo-Catholics in their walk to Rome.  We’ve spent a fair amount of time on that; now let’s look at the weakness of the other branch of orthodox Anglicanism, the evangelical wing.  Our contention is that Evangelical Anglicans need to take a hard look at their adherence to Augustinian-Reformed theology.  We will show that those who were at the start of the Church of England understood these limitations and enshrined them in the 39 Articles.

A quick overview of Reformed-Augustinian Theology

Augustine formulated his theology of grace and perseverance in response to the teachings of Pelagius, arguably the most influential Christian teacher to come out of Roman Britain.  Augustine’s insistence on predestination and the perseverance to eternal life that follows from that eliminated the need for human effort that Pelagius implied was necessary.

Augustine’s solution, based on a focus on Paul’s epistles,  was controversial at the time.  Ever since Marcion had used Paul’s writings to advance his idea that the God of the Old Testament and New weren’t one in the same, the church had shied away from rigourously applying Paul’s teachings.  Moreover the early church had always admitted the possibility of falling away after salvation, something that Augustine basically obviated with his emphasis on predestination.  So the Western church rocked on through the Middle Ages, Augustinian in name but not always in reality.

It was Luther who "closed the circle" by realising that, if absolute predestination were true, then we didn’t need the church as a gatekeeper to get us to heaven.  It only took an act of faith–an act which was induced by God–to respond to God’s justification of us.  Calvin gilded the lily by emphasising our total depravity and inability to reach God apart from his initiative.  Both understood that this election was unconditional.

Augustinian theology’s strong point is that it makes a clear distinction between those who are saved and those who are lost.  The weakness is that, because of its insistence on predestination, it blocks the necessity of a lot of Christian activity that the New Testament holds as important.  Spiritual growth is one of those.  Personal holiness is another, especially when we consider that the key to eternal life in a Lutheran context is a legal decision in heaven.  Missions is another, and this is why it took two centuries from what many consider the greatest event in Christian history–the Reformation–to the beginning of serious world missions.  Why bother with missions when everyone is already predestined one way or another?

Augustinian Theology and Early Anglicanism

Early Anglican history was a "tug-of-war" between those who wanted a more "Catholic" type of church and one who wanted a more "Reformed" one.  The 39 Articles are imbued with Augustinian-Reformed thinking (and, yes, we’re of the mind that, if you don’t accept the 39 Articles, you’re not a real Anglican.)  But then there’s Article XVI:

NOT every deadly sin willingly committed after Baptism is sin against the Holy Ghost, and unpardonable. Wherefore the grant of repentance is not to be denied to such as fall into sin after Baptism. After we have received the Holy Ghost, we may depart from grace given and fall into sin, and by the grace of God we may arise again and amend our lives. And therefore they are to be condemned, which say they can no more sin as long as they live here, or deny the place of forgiveness to such as truly repent.

This article is a product of the experience of the early church.  Before Constantine, baptism was strictly for adults who made a profession of faith (those "of riper years," as the 1662 Prayer Book would say) and underwent a catechumenate, or period of instruction and repentance.  Committing serious sin after baptism resulted in serious penance or excommuniciation.  Constantine himself was aware of this: he and his spiritual advisor, Eusebius of Caesarea, had no problem with delaying his baptism until shortly before his death, to avoid those penalties.  As we said earlier, the ante-Nicene church (at least) had always allowed the possibility of falling away after baptism, a baptism which followed a conversion experience.

That having been said, Article XVI torpedoes a straight-up Augustinian-Reformed theological framework for the Anglican.  Any admission that one can lose one’s salvation for any reason once one is elect (and knows it, another feature of Lutheranism is the matter of assurance) breaks the whole Reformed paradigm.

It took a century and a half, but it was John Wesley who finally connected the dots on this issue with his decidedly Arminian view of election and his emphasis on sanctification as a subsequent work of the Holy Spirit.  But same emphasis had already been anticipated by John Jewel:

Besides, though we say we have no meed [reward] at all by our own works and deeds, but appoint all the means of our salvation to be in Christ alone, yet say we not that for this cause men ought to live loosely and dissolutely; nor that it is enough for a Christian to be baptized only and to believe; as though there were nothing else required at his hand. For true faith is lively and can in no wise be idle. Thus therefore teach we the people that God hath called us, not to follow riot and wantonness, but, as Paul saith, “unto good works to walk in them”; that God hath plucked us out “from the power of darkness, to serve the living God,” to cut away all the remnants of sin, and “to work our salvation in fear and trembling”; that it may appear how that the Spirit of sanctification is in our bodies and that Christ himself doth dwell in our hearts. (from An Apology of the Church of England.)

The Position of Modern Evangelicals

Modern Anglican Evangelicals recognise themselves as the heirs of the "Protestant" side of Anglicanism, and rightly so.  One reason why so many parishes and Episcopalians/Anglican people gravitate towards Anglo-Catholicism, however, is because most people of an Evangelical or Reformed bent don’t stay in an Anglican setting, but go elsewhere.  If Evangelical Anglicanism plans to make a serious impact on the world–especially in the West–it needs to understand its own unique spiritual heritage, one that is different from Reformed and Lutheran churches in more ways than just liturgically.  Some ways it could do this are as follows:

  1. Anglicanism needs to stop seeing itself as simply Reformed Christianity with a liturgy but as a serious attempt to return to the ante-Nicene church.  That would put its view of how people go to heaven in a more pre-Augustinian light.
  2. Anglicans need to understand sanctification and personal holiness as a dynamic process in the life of the Christian, one that motivates the believer to do and live as God expects him or her to do.  Episcopalians have for too long associated their church with its aesthetic appeal rather than on expectations of service and morality that God has on the believer.  On the other hand, many of Wesley’s heirs have come to see that the "sinless perfection" that is part of classical Wesleyanism is not a realistic objective in this life, which would eliminate one barrier that has been in place for many years.
  3. Evangelical Anglicanism would do itself many favours by weaning itself from infant baptism.  Adult (and that can be interpreted broadly), believers’ baptism is a statement that life with Christ starts with a decision, something that has no place in an Augustinian context.  A conscious decision–even one that requires the moving of God to validate–is a necessity in a world with so many distractions and detours.  The wording of the Articles is interesting on this point: "The baptism of young children is in any wise to be retained in the Church as most agreeable with the institution of Christ." (Article XXVII)

The issue of sanctification, however, begs discussion of the next step.  That step–the baptism in the Holy Spirit–in Anglicanism has been the province of the Charismatics, and we will discuss them in a subsequent post.

Just for Procreation: It Wasn’t Our Idea to Start With

We cannot resist saying something about Washington state’s "Defence of Marriage Alliance" and their petition to require hetrosexual couples to have children within three years after marriage or be subject to annulment.

To start with, we never based our opposition to gay marriage solely on the ability of heterosexual couples to procreate.  Our idea of what marriage is for is best expressed by the 1662 Book of Common Prayer:

First, It was ordained for the procreation of children, to be brought up in the fear and nurture of the Lord, and to the praise of his holy Name.
Secondly, It was ordained for a remedy against sin, and to avoid fornication; that such persons as have not the gift of continency might marry, and keep themselves undefiled members of Christ’s body.
Thirdly, It was ordained for the mutual society, help, and comfort, that the one ought to have of the other, both in prosperity and adversity.

Second, we have always contended that gay marriage represents a betrayal of basic liberal view of sexuality, thus it represents a sellout on the part of the homosexual community.

Third, we do not believe that marriage is primarily an act of the state, but an institution of God.  That being the case, we would rather see it taken out of the state’s hands (one way or the other) rather than seeing the state redefine it for the convenience of an upscale minority or anyone else for that matter.