Jul 242017

1. C.S LewisIt is a serious thing . . . to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare.


All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics.

There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal.”

2. It is impossible to overestimate C.S. Lewis influence on modern Christian thought. It is a sad fact however, that had Lewis been born fifty years later and written in our era, he would be dismissed as a heretic and compromiser of the highest sort. His brilliance would have been buried under piles of criticism by people unworthy to sharpen his pencil. I cannot help but wonder how many Lewis’s are smothered under those piles today…

3. We’ve lost the ability to read any theology with true discernment. I’m not talking about some mystical (non existent, made up in the fevered imagination) “gift of discernment”, but the ability to separate wheat from chaff and celebrate wheat. Every great theologian also trades in chaff now and then…

4. Had Eugene Peterson not retracted his support of gay marriage,my response would have been a resounding snore. What I’ve learned from Peterson is true and valuable and it’s still true and valuable even if he’s wrong about some other things…like the rest of us are…

5. You will never grow in grace or knowledge if you demand that every teacher check all the boxes on your holy checklist. You simply create a list of people your sect approves of…

6. Whenever I see an argument on Facebook lamenting that some politician is opposing “we the people” , I want to remind the person that whichever side they’re on they’re only talking about half of “we the people”…

7. Most folks today don’t engage in theological discussions to learn, but to be affirmed in what they think they already think they know. It’s like taking the third grade over and over again…

8. Whenever you have a physical issue that causes intense pain, approximately half the people you share with will tell you what they went through that really hurt…

9. I’ll say it again…we’re no longer looking for solutions to our political and cultural issues, but victories over perceived enemies. Which means that we have already lost…

10. If they will know us by our love, we have either redefined love or chosen to live in disguise…




Jul 222017

Dear Lord, help me to spread your fragrance wherever I go. Flood my soul with your spirit and life. Penetrate and possess my whole being so utterly that all my life may only be a radiance of yours. Shine through me, and be so in me that every soul I come in contact with may feel your presence in my soul.

Let them look up and see no longer me, but only you, O Lord! Stay with me and then I will begin to shine as you do; so to shine as to be a light to others. The light, O Lord, will be all from you; none of it will be mine. It will be you shining on others through me.

Let me thus praise you in the way which you love best, by shining on those around me. Let me preach you without preaching, not by words but by example, by the catching force, the sympathetic influence of what I do, the evident fullness of the love my heart bears to you. Amen.

John Henry Cardinal Newman


Jul 222017

Matthew 24:12-28

12 And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold.

People do get discouraged looking at all the bad news – this is why I got rid of cable TV.

  • Peter stands up to say that he would never deny Jesus and he did and he ran.
  • In the garden they could not even stay awake and pray with him – and then they scattered.
  • So to the Jews hearing this message (and even the disciples were Jews) what were they to think? They remembered when the prophets of old spoke about how Israel would fall away, that they would be taken into exile, that the temple would be destroyed – in Ezekiel the glory of the Lord departed.
  • The Jew would think “it’s all over and we are done as a nation.” So as far as they were concerned, this must be the end.
  • So when the prophets prophesied the judgment of Israel and the judgment of the world and God setting up a messianic kingdom fulfilling the promise of sending the savior – they think it is all happening at once — and it doesn’t.

13 But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

  • So that we / they would not despair he says this (v.13 & 14)


14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

  • So Jerusalem will be destroyed and the end will come – so what is he speaking of? All of the above.

The Abomination of Desolation

15 “So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand),

  • You must know your Old Testament at this point, and I must stay abbreviated here for time – Daniel 9:27; 11:31; 12:11
  • Daniel is writing his prophecy when Messiah would come there would be a kingdom that precedes Christ’s kingdom.
  • The main character for this abomination was Antiochus Epiphany 3rd.
  • Daniel lived in the time of the Babylonians, then came the Persians, followed by Alexander the Great who conquered the world. When he dies his kingdom id divided into 4 kingdoms – one is eventually run by Antiochus Epiphany 3rd
  • Through holocaust he tries to destroy his enemy the Jews – and the short story is that he sacrifices pork on the altar of the temple.
  • This is the Abomination of Desolation. He is the foretaste of the anti Christ.
  • So what is Jesus warning of? And what about that statement – Let the reader understand – who said this, Jesus or Matthew?
  • I think Jesus is saying – “when you see it, you will know what I was talking about.

16 then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.

  • When you see this sign – run!
  • This is what many Christians had to do to survive – they ran off to Peraea, called Pella.

17 Let the one who is on the housetop not go down to take what is in his house,

18 and let the one who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak.

19 And alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days!

  • These verses can be summarized by “get out of Dodge fast!”

20 Pray that your flight may not be in winter or on a Sabbath.

  • Just pray that nothing slows you down. I wonder if the Sabbath allows you to save your life and family’s lives?

21 For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be.

  • The line of distinction is not clear. Is he speaking of the fall of Jerusalem or is he speaking of the last day?

22 And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short.

  • Hidden under all of this doom and gloom is God’s deliverance.
  • The years of 66 – 70 AD were so terrible that we see what the Romans were capable of doing to people.
  • Also what the Jewish people did to themselves, those who were trapped in the city itself – starvation, cannibalism and murder.
  • The legend is that there were no trees left around Jerusalem because the Romans crucified so many people.

23 Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There he is!’ do not believe it.

24 For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect.

  • Who does your pastor point towards? Himself or Christ?
  • False prophets can be very convincing – most of them have their own “christian churches”.

25 See, I have told you beforehand.

  • I think everything Jesus warns about is before hand. Jesus is not one to say ‘I told you so.’

26 So, if they say to you, ‘Look, he is in the wilderness,’ do not go out. If they say, ‘Look, he is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it.

27 For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.

  • This is truth – when Jesus comes, you will not need to be told.

28 Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.

  • The false prophets usually show up when there is a void in the real church.
  • When the church allows itself to die, when it starts to stink, then the hucksters show up.




Jul 212017

I take great pride in being tough, so when the nurse asked me if I wanted a painkiller I declined.

However, pride is a sin and my sin found me out and I soon hit the red button to call the nurse back to accept her offer.

I’m not as tough as I thought I was.

The nurse was not angry that I changed my mind….in fact she knew I would.

Pain had crushed my will and made me a compliant patient.

Unfortunately, that’s how life works most of the time.

One of my favorite sayings in counseling is “when pain exceeds payoff, positive change occurs”.

When something hurts more than whatever pleasure you get from doing that something, you’ll stop doing it.

A great deal of counseling is simply waiting for pain to exceed payoff in the one being counseled.

Usually, the pain has to be intense…we’re not always the sharpest knives in the drawer.

Pain is actually both a gift from God and a result of the fall.

It’s a sign that something is wrong in either body or soul or both.

You can ignore it and hope it goes away or you can acknowledge it and deal with the problem.

I usually choose to ignore it.

I don’t want to take the painkiller or see the physician.

I don’t, that is, until the pain becomes unbearable.

Then, I want both right now.

“Oh God make speed to save us”

“Oh Lord make haste to help us”

He was waiting for you to ask…

My pain is from something that needs to be cut out.

Yours might be too.

I waited.

You shouldn’t.

Make your own application…

Jul 202017

The Mercies of God

“Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.” (Luke 6:36)

Jesus never minced words regarding the cost of discipleship. The Gospel is only for sinners, which offends most people. Jesus either disturbs our illusion of tranquility, which ignores or disbelieves altogether in God, or He offends our sense of self-righteousness. Adding insult to injury, Jesus claims to be the exclusive Redeemer for the whole world. So Jesus makes a lot of enemies, and His preaching got Him crucified. Jesus, however, is always transparent that if most people hate Him, they will also hate His disciples: “If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household.” (Matt 10:25b)

How then should Christians conduct themselves in a world which sees their God and them as enemies? Jesus answers: “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.”

When Jesus encourages His Christians to “be merciful”, He is asking us to participate in the life of His body, the Church. For just as Christ does the will of His head, the Father, so also the Church does the will of her head, Christ. In this particular passage, Jesus expresses the will of the Father in terms of being merciful. Simply put, Jesus encourages the Church and His Christians to be conduits of God’s mercy to the world.

“Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.”

To be conduits of our Father’s mercy to others, we first must be Christians, that is, recipients of His mercy through faith in the Gospel of Christ our Lord. Our merciful conduct does not make us Christians, but is the organic outward expression (or fruit) of being a Christian.

How is God merciful to us? He gives us all things, physical and spiritual, temporal and eternal, gratuitously and out of pure goodness, and not according to what we deserve. He sees we are captives of death; but He is merciful and gives us life. He sees we are children of hell; but he is merciful and gives us heaven. He sees we are poor, naked and exposed, hungry or thirsty; but he is merciful, and clothes, feeds and satisfies us with all good things. Thus, whatever we have for the body or spirit, he gives us out of mercy.

Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.”

As the recipients of our Father’s mercy, Christ encourages us to imitate our Father and be merciful to our neighbors. However, even if we were perfect in this life (which none of us are), we still could never give mercies as great as those our Father gives to us for the sake His Son, who out of mercy ransomed us from sin, death and hell with His own blood. That being said, Jesus teaches us how to lead good lives here on earth among unbelievers, by which we may through our merciful conduct be of great benefit to them, even though many will judge and condemn us for our faith.

“Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” (Luke 6:37-38)

Jesus teaches mercy with four commands: two positive and two negative. We are not to “judge” or “condemn,” but we are to “forgive” and “give.”

Judge not…

In our culture the phrase, “judge not,” has become a slogan. It is often misused by Christians and unbelievers alike to justify wrongdoing. It is often used as a weapon instead of a mercy.

“Judge not” is not a universal rule, but has a very specific meaning in Scripture. To begin with, we need distinguish between offices and individuals. Jesus is not speaking here of temporal offices instituted by God, such as:

(1) Officers of the State, who are called to uphold the law and punish wrongdoing;

(2) Pastors, who are called to preach repentance for the forgiveness of sins, rebuke false doctrine and administer church discipline; and

(3) Parents, who are called to raise God fearing and law abiding children, which includes disciplining rebellious children.

For instance, Jesus is not admonishing the law court judge, pastor or parent to not judge a matter or punish wrongdoing within the scope of their office. Such a misconstruction would foster lawlessness and anarchy. To the contrary, when these offices rightly judge, condemn and punish they actually are doing works of mercy for the people, which may lead a sinner to repent, a child to amend his behavior and/or deter someone else from committing similar wrongdoing. It might very well be a sin against mercy in such cases to allow wrongdoing to go unpunished.

“If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” (Rom 12:18)

Jesus is speaking here to Christians without the office who are tempted to judge or condemn their neighbors, usurping the judgment which belongs to God alone. No Christian love or unity can exist where people judge and condemn one another that way, so Jesus forbids it.

If we do not judge and condemn, we will not be judged or condemned. This mercy promotes peace among neighbors. Jesus also appears to be referring to the final judgment as well. (A tree is known by its fruit.)

“Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1 Cor 13:7)

Balanced against the two negative exhortations, Jesus gives two positive exhortations coupled with two promises: forgive and we will be forgiven; and give and it will be given to us.

Christian mercy through forgiveness and giving is of great benefit to our neighbors, and it also is of great benefit to us. For our neighbors, their receipt of our forgiveness and gifts not only helps them with physical needs, but this mercy complements Christian preaching that God is a merciful God “who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Tim 2:4) Our acts of mercy may help remove barriers for the Gospel among some of the unbelieving recipients of our mercy.

For the Christian, when we forgive and give to our neighbors, out of generosity with no expectation of reciprocity, we also benefit in our lives, especially when we are afflicted. These acts of mercy serve as signs to us that our faith is genuine and that we are true Christians. Peter refers to this benefit as confirmation of our calling and election (2 Pet 1:10).

“Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great.” (Luke 6:47-49.

 Let us all build our houses solely on the foundation of the Gospel of Christ Jesus our Lord. His Word is our Rock and our Refuge. Being people of mercy is part of our foundation. May we abide in Him now and forever. Amen.

Jul 192017

Gay marriage and LGBT issues seemingly command our media and culture today.  It has been like this for several years now.  Conspicuously all the more so when applying these topics to the church. 

There appears to be a great desire for many to find out where each and every church and pastor and Christian stands on these issues. 


For some progressives, there is the aggressive desire to find out who the loving and tolerant are, and who the haters are.  For some conservatives, there is the consuming desire to find out who is standing strong in the orthodox faith, and who are the unholy compromisers.  And the church as a whole is engulfed by one big culture war.  Sometimes the church is a willful and active participant.

Now gay marriage and LGBT matters are the predominant topic on many days.  But there are, of course, other issues that feed into our culture wars.  Abortion and religious freedom and guns and immigration and health care, amongst others, are all battled about.  Depending upon the topic, one side or the other will often claim the moral high ground, sometimes with both sides simultaneously asserting the greater righteousness.

Now, not all people and organizations are driven by culture wars.  While some see great importance in winning political battles on these issues, others eschew any semblance of any such war.  Yet, in today’s world, it would seem next to impossible to avoid them completely.  Unless one goes completely in a shell and refuses to ever utter an opinion on any hot-topic item, people are going to be drug into a war, willingly or not, simply by expressing a belief on any said issue.

So where does that leave the church?  Churches and their pastors and leaders are to preach the Gospel and the Word of God.  By doing so, there are going to be times of overlap with culture war issues of the day.  Some maybe more directly than others.  The church can avoid intentionally focusing on or overemphasizing these issues, but they are going to come up from time to time.  If not by the church itself, then by outsiders who request/demand that the church and/or its leaders give answers to their inquiries.

Some issues seem to embroiling more and more within the church itself, with some portions of the church abandoning orthodoxy and traditional church teaching while other portions obsess about speaking to the truth and depravity of certain choice sins while displaying very little love or compassion.  Therefore, we can leave outside culture completely out of it and we’ve got some serious issues to deal with in house as a church family.  (Although, in some regards, the influences and pressures of our culture have contributed to these things becoming issues within the church in the first place.)

So the church, which we all know is pretty much the exact opposite of a monolith unit, has plenty of moralistic matters it needs to deal with just within itself.  As these issues are being dealt with, how does this then translate as to how the church, or Christians as individuals, are to relate to the culture at large?  If a church will not affirm same-sex marriage or homosexual behavior, how should it and its members interact with a surrounding culture that more and more says these things are good and should be universally accepted and sanctioned by the state?  If a church is against abortion, how should it and its members operate within a culture that allows for abortion?  If a church believes the alien and widow and poor are to be cared for, how should it and its members work within their society to try to make this happen?

Certainly the church should be first concerned with being in alignment with God’s teachings and God’s will on these issues.  Some issues would seem to be easier to discern based on Scripture and all the years of established church teaching and orthodoxy, while other issues may be more complicated and not quite as clear.  Whatever the church discerns on these issues, they should teach and demonstrate to their members as is appropriate.  How should the church and its members then interact within society on these things?

Placing one’s head in the sand and just ignoring the culture is not an appropriate reaction.  But neither is trying to win a holy war and conquering the culture to be wholly in submission to the church.  I may say it is no skin off my back if two women want and do get married to each other.  But then at the same time, if the culture starts pushing on my school age daughters that it is okay for them to romantically like other girls and encourages them to experiment and tells them its okay if they want to marry another girl, then I cannot just sit idly by as I believe these things to be wrong.  All the more so if schools in their structures and teaching are encouraging these things.  I certainly need to instruct my daughters in what is right, but how should I and the church go about protecting my daughters from the teachings and pressures of this conceived corruption?  And how should I and the church go about protecting others from these troubles and also influencing the culture to follow God’s ways, as it will only end up being better and healthier for everyone to do so?

We can replace the example in the previous paragraph with plenty of other issues and end up with similar questions.  What about a complicated issue like health care?  What can and should I and the church do to see that people are cared for, most especially the poor and downtrodden?  Beyond what we can and should do individually and locally to help those in need, to what degree should we be trying to influence our culture to see that this action takes place?

The elephant in the room in this discussion is to what degree should we and the church get involved politically to try to see good accomplished and morality to be upheld in our culture?  Again, some want to completely eschew politics, but that would seem to be too simplistic.  Even the most basic and prioritized task of the church, that of proclaiming the Gospel, will have political implications within the culture.  Thus, we have to deal with politics to at least some degree.

I am not one to clamor to be a culture war warrior.  In today’s environment, to fight the culture wars seems to so often mean making one’s bed with a political party or affiliation or politician and to be intensely supportive of said person or group and to disregard all their troubling aspects while maintaining a laser focus on demeaning and defeating all others who are “against” you.  With as much dirt and corruption as there exists with both major political parties and most politicians and political organizations, I believe it is often wrongful to declare any one party or politician as the “Christian” choice and to disparage those who do not see it that way.  Unequivocally hitching our ride to any one politician or political party is not the prudent manner in which to act.

But if we are concerned with the treatment of not only our friends and family and loved ones, but with humanity as a whole, we will need to speak and even sometimes take action within our culture on what we believe to be right and God-honoring.  And often that speech and accompanying actions will have political implications.  Each and every one of us is in different circumstances of life and so what God would have for each will vary from person to person.  God may have plans for some to become more politically active than others.

As for the church, it needs to stand for truth and sometimes that truth will have unavoidable political ramifications.  I do not believe the church should set out to be intentionally political or combative or to disproportionately focus on pet issues.  And its alertness on showing compassion and aiming to help those struggling in these issues should be just as strong, if not even possibly stronger, as its fastidiousness in speaking the truth.  But there are times when the church will need to and should speak to the truth of issues.  Issues that sometimes can be hot-button topics in our culture.

I have given some opinions but have also asked some questions.  Questions that, at least in my mind, do not have simple or easily ascertained answers.  As I am apt to conclude many of my writings, I implore God to give us wisdom and compel us to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly as we think through and act on these matters.            

Jul 182017

Since the internet blowup of Eugene Peterson, I’ve received a number of emails that all go something like this;

“I’ve noticed you have not made a clear statement of your own views on same sex relationships and you waffle on the issue when you do say something. Is this because you’re an Anglican now? What is your position?”

Here’s my position.

After lots of reading and lots of study I am unpersuaded that the historical view of the church regarding marriage and sexual relationships is in error.

I affirm the historic Christian view and the historical moral theology of the church on this issue.

Having said that, I’m also a pastor.

There are gay people and people who struggle with same sex attraction that read this blog.

Some of them are very broken and fragile people.

None of them are “militants”.

I care about them.

I am utterly unconvinced that continual condemnation will result in their sanctification.

I want to maintain relationships and demonstrate the love and patience of God to them.

I don’t give a damn about checking off the doctrinal boxes for the sake of taking my place in the culture wars.

Frankly, I deal with about a thousand times more “straight” moral failure…

The part of the Anglican communion I’m seeking to join is one that split off from the main body over these issues and affirms the tradition view of the Christian church.

That should cover all the questions…


Jul 182017

Do we really have to be mean to prove our orthodoxy?

Greg Boyd adjusts Martin Luther…

How to love a jerk like me…

“Evangelical” is not a political term…

Domestic violence in the name of God…

Why I went back to church…

The new allure of sacred pilgrimages…

Fewer persecuted Christians find refuge under Trump…

Facebook can’t replace church…

What should really concern us about the Eugene Peterson debacle…

Christian patriotism…

In praise of escapism…

Sometimes reading the Bible literally is literally wrong…

Mohler rips Peterson…

A wish list for Reformed Catholicism…

Dialoging with the Doc…

Don’t wait until you figure out grace and works before doing both…

A different take on how “dying for our sins” works…

Money doesn’t have to be stressful…

An impossible hope…

Is God a genocidal maniac?

Interview with Dr. Packer…

Remember to support EricL and his work at top right…


Jul 172017


Lead, Kindly Light, amidst the encircling gloom…”

                                                                                                                                John Henry Newman (1833)      


The past week has left me exhausted, and with more than a slight sense of alienation.  Eugene Peterson’s initial statements in an interview seemingly endorsing same-sex marriage, the fierce and vehement reaction from conservative evangelicals, and the subsequent clarification of Peterson’s views reaffirming a traditional view, have filled the internet and allowed for an unleashing of vitriol by progressives and conservatives alike.  I have been left saddened, rather than exultant.  I am saddened not owing to the issue itself and/or its resolution, but rather by the so many unguarded, uncharitable and, at times, personally abusive comments made by both sides.  One commentator made the observation that no matter what else took place, Peterson’s legacy has been undeniably tarnished in the eyes of many.  

Legacies are often difficult to evaluate, especially when they are attached a man.  It is, however, even more so the case when we try to evaluate the legacy of an historical movement that has influenced most the Christian Church for over a century, but has now increasingly faded into obscurity.  Here I am speaking of the Anglican phenomena of the Oxford Movement, for it was a movement that has influenced almost every part of the Christian Church, even down to our own day and time, whether we know it or not.

The Oxford Movement had a concern for the renewal of worship and a return to the theological values of the ancient Church, which, its leaders believed, had become undermined by a politicizing of the ecclesiastical practices and structures of its day.

Central questions included:

“How much should contemporary culture influence the Church?” 

“What is central and essential to Christian worship?”

“What is the role of the State in the life of the Church?”

“How is a Christian to view Church History?”

These are questions that continue with us to this day.  For that reason alone, there might be value in reassessing the lessons and legacy of the Oxford Movement.

John Henry Newman considered a sermon preached in the University church in Oxford, England, on July 14, 1833, by John Keble, Professor of Poetry, to be the real beginning of the Oxford Movement. His subject was ‘National Apostasy’, and the congregation included representatives of the university, judges and magistrates of the region who had gathered for the Annual Assize sermon. Keble claimed that both church and state were ‘drifting’ or ‘slipping away’ from the calling which God had given to each for the fulfillment of His purposes. Keble’s remedy was for the Church to return to its central role as an instrument of salvation which had been brought into being by God through the work of Christ and the continuing witness of the apostles. Therefore, the Church did not receive its mandate from contemporary society or the requirements of the government of the day, but from God alone who had given the Church its ultimate authority. Few could have seen the full implications of this single sermon.

The initial result was the publication of a series of ‘Tracts for the Times’ by the leaders of the new movement who took as their chief aim the defense of the Church as a divine institution, a concern for apostolic succession in ministry and the use of worship as contained in The Book of Common Prayer as a rule of faith. Keble, Newman, and E. B. Pusey were soon joined by influential supporters in R.H. Froude, R.W. Church and R.I. Wilberforce, who added their intellectual vigor and literary skills. The ‘Tracts’, in time, became lengthy and detailed theological treatises which called into question the status quo and were attacked by the liberal party within the university and the Church alike. Not unlike blog posts of today, however, they enjoyed a wide readership and began to shift the nature of national and, indeed, international ecclesial debates.  Some of the leaders, however, became increasingly disenchanted with the continuing debate.  After many, including most notably, John Henry Newman, made their way to the “safe harbor” of the Roman Catholic Church, it seemed that the movement was dead.

Three factors, however, ensured its continuing vitality. These three factors, I believe, are still worthy of imitation in our own time and circumstances.

Firstly, the intellectual foundation established by the early leaders in their scholarly and literary activities, notably the Library of the Fathers, made a major contribution to the study of Church History and spirituality. Many of the Church Fathers had never even been available in translation.  The study of the Fathers, once a key element in Reformation theology, had largely been abandoned by Protestants.  Among Roman Catholics and the Eastern Orthodox, the Fathers were the domain of the few, not the many. Now, the situation changed. Critical texts, once nowhere to be found, were prepared. The new movement honored learning and scholarship and provided opportunities for the same all the way from the smallest local parish to the oldest universities in the land. 

Secondly, their emphasis upon a renewal of the Church’s liturgical life made worship central and re-established the Holy Eucharist as normative Christian worship – a consequence of their reading of the early Fathers – something that has influenced the renewal of the Church’s liturgical and sacramental life to this day. Liturgical texts were revised, hymns were written, ancient prayers were translated, and people were instructed as to the meaning of what was said and done in church. Moreover, liturgy – literally “the work of the people” – allowed for the active participation of the laity in worship.  

Thirdly, the Oxford Movement went beyond the academic and upper class environment in which it had been born. In practical terms this was a result of sympathetic clergy being given the worst possible parish assignments by their church superiors, usually in the slums of city centers, which it was thought would kill the movement. It had the opposite effect as clergy made the Incarnation, the love of worship, and social concern central to their lives, and filled their churches with those who lived on the fringes of society. The beauty of Jesus in worship was a light in the darkest industrial centers of America and England as almost abandoned churches were painted, restored, renewed and filled with those who had never before entered a place of worship.

Yet, with all of this, the Oxford Movement eventually failed, becoming a small subset of the Anglican world.  They failed, firstly, because they succeeded.  The Eucharist became normative in the Anglican communion and far beyond – Methodists, Lutherans, and Reformed to name a few. Liturgy and the study of the Church Fathers also gained adherents across the ecclesiastical world. They won the argument. In becoming a small subset of Anglicanism, they failed when they became more interested in the style of their chasuble, the length of their surplice and the arrangement of their altars, more than in the lost at their door or the theological enablement of their people. They eventually became a theological echo chamber counting externals as more important than the care of their people, outreach to the poor or the reaffirmation of their theological underpinnings.

These are lessons for us. 

Denominational Christianity, as it has been known, is failing.  Most denominations may well be beyond the point of recovery. The larger evangelical churches thrive, for the moment, in the suburbs, not in the slums.  Many Christians, especially evangelicals, look to the State to uphold faith values.  Meanwhile, other Christians, often progressives, call on the State to enforce their particular view. Scholarship is decried by some or embraced by others, but it has failed to take a central place in informing our actions or faith decisions unless one “party” or another can harness it to their particular point of view.  American and Western European Christianity has become eclipsed as the faith increases at a staggering rate in Africa and Asia, often as they face real, not supposed, persecution.  

So, we return to legacy.

I wonder as I look around us today in 2017, what will our legacy be and how will future generations evaluate our contributions to the faith, to scholarship, to theology and worship? Will they consider them to be substantial or mere vanities? Will they consider them to be significant or trivial? Or, as has been done in the case of Eugene Peterson, will they parse out the legacy, accepting what they want and rejecting the rest.  Perhaps…

We cannot answer such questions with absolute certainty, yet in our day of suburban church planting seminars, worship choruses with life spans measured in months, and publications aimed primarily for sales rather than insight, these questions must be asked. In looking for historical models for renewal, we might do well to look to the legacy of the Oxford Movement. We might also wish to learn the lessons of what happens when we lose the vision that first impelled us.

Duane W.H. Arnold, PhD

The Project

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