Category Archives: Seminary

Love/hate relationship with Faith, Hope, and Love

faith, hope, love

Image credit: mercyrains @deviant art

I’m pretty sick of love. Not all love, but the love that says…We just need to love people…The greatest of these is love, so that’s ALL we need to do ….pardon me if I lovingly gag. Love without faith and hope is a pretty pitiful thing that amounts to no more than tolerance. Allow me to explain more fully…

My gut negative reaction to this Scripture comes not from the words themselves, but the way people have chosen to apply them.

1 Corinthians 13:13 says this, according to the NIV translation, “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” You can check out other translations here,  but every translation describes love as being the greatest, greater, or best. What’s wrong with that? Nothing, Love is the best….What’s wrong is the way we then APPLY it.

In our Western world, Good is Ok, but I want only the BEST. We chuck out everything else, and focus exclusively on what is the greatest. I would argue that this is dangerous, and harms Christian practice. Just as faith without works is dead (James 2:14), Love without faith and hope is sickly and anemic. I argue, it ceases to be love at all, and is nothing more than tolerance.

Wikipedia tells us love is a virtue of “benevolent concern for the good of another.” Yet what is good for another? Take the hypotehtical, yet very real, example of Jane. Jane is a drug addicted homeless person, panhandling for money. What is more loving, to give her money, or to not? To engage her or ignore her?

What is good for Jane? The real answer is for Jane to be motivated and empowered to change her life and circumstances that contribute to/led to the addiction, and to be healed of her addiction. Yet that is hard, and frankly most of us don’t hold much hope for that…So we do one of three things: 1. give her money, say God Bless you, and hope she spends it on food and not drugs. 2. Give her no money and tell her to get her act together. 3.  Fiddle with our cell phone/radio knobs and ignore her. Are any of these really loving? Probably not…Why?

We’ve equated loving with being nice to people. So perhaps giving money is nice, but it wasn’t loving if it enabled Jane to further self harm and took her farther away from God’s purposes. Telling her to get her act together might be decribed as tough love, but it denies the real systematic issues that may be preventing her from just pulling her act together. Ignoring her may be seen then as the easy way, I’m not helping, I’m not harming. Yet this might be the most harmful of all. Remember the parable of the Good Samaritan? Crossing the street didn’t solve anything. When we just ignore people like Jane, we deny that they are our neighbor, and that they are a person created in God’s image. We ignore them because we have no faith, or hope that there can be any change in the situation.

St. Augustine wrote a Handbook on Faith, Hope and Love, and described the relation of faith and love thusly:

” Now this is the true faith of Christ which the apostle commends: faith that works through love. And what it yet lacks in love it asks that it may receive, it seeks that it may find, and knocks that it may be opened unto it.246 For faith achieves what the law commands fides namque impetrat quod lex imperat. And, without the gift of God–that is, without the Holy Spirit, through whom love is shed abroad in our hearts–the law may bid but it cannot aid jubere lex poterit, non juvare.”[1]

Our faith works through our love and love is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. The logic “we just have to love people” is a lie, or at best only a partial truth. Our love is an outworking of our faith and hope in a God that truly changes things and heals hearts and minds.

I too am guilty of treating the “Janes” I come across without really engaging in relationship building. Yet I am praying that God will help me love the seemingly unlovable. As it gets hotter and hotter here in South Florida, I’m keeping bottles of water to give to those I meet. Another good idea is to keep hygiene kits to distribute directly, or donate to shelters, a list of what to include can be found here.

[1] Augustine’s Enchiridion Chapter 31, point 117. Found online here http://www.tertullian.org/fathers/augustine_enchiridion_02_trans.htm#C31

 

 

 

An Apology for Ecumenism: Pax Nashotah

St. Mary's Chapel

Inside St. Mary’s Chapel

Ecumenism between the Anglican Church of North America and The Episcopal Church, when rancor abounds.

A firestorm has surrounded my beloved Nashotah House about the invitation of the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, Katherine Jefferts Schori. You may ask, so what? What does this invite have to do with apologetics or ecumenism…

Well, Bishop Schori is actively suing members of Nashotah’s Board of trustees, and several faculty lost their priest credentials in the Episcopal Church. She holds some questionable, if not outright heretical theology. So WHY invite her?

The idea was the brainchild of a few students, particularly Deacon Terry Starr, who was told by Schori not to go to Nashotah, because Nashotah taught hate. The invitation was issued to prove her wrong and model Christ’s love. At its heart it is ecumenism at its finest.

Yet the firestorm, and blowback arose because the internet began circulating that she was going to preach, and even celebrate Communion. That is FALSE!

To quote an article from VirtueOnline:

“The thought of her preaching at Nashotah is beyond reasonable, like inviting the fox into the hen house. Hence, two bishops have publically vocalized their disdain and have used their feet to distance themselves from the Wisconsin seminary. As the story continued to unfold, it was learned that in actuality the XXVI Presiding Bishop was not being invited to preach at The House because of her questionable theological stances, her lack luster preaching ability, or her embracing the hot button issues which have divided the church. Instead, after discernment with the Board of Trustees, the three inquiring students and select faculty members with soul searching prayer, Bishop Salmon determined that the prominent Wisconsin seminary could reach out to Katharine Jefferts Schori with the pure Gospel of Jesus Christ being presented in a graceful, non-judgmental loving manner thus graphically showing that her misconceptions and negative opinions about Nashotah House are unfounded. ”

To prove her misconceptions wrong…sounds like apologetics and ecumenism at its finest to me. Sadly, in the firestorm and upheaval, we lost our brother, Deacon Terry Star. He died of a heart attack. To read more about Deacon Starr go here.

I can only say what I believe. Spiritual warfare was ongoing. Ecumenism and apologetics are of God. When we cut off dialogue, we prevent healing.

For this reason I pray…

As I sit, in silent contemplation,

I pray to thee, heal thy nation.

Like branches, grafted on the tree are we.

Yet, trembling and bending, some are breaking free.

Help us now, before we dost prune,

to see thee in them, erst callously we not commune.

Thou art God, and thee alone,

Jesus for all, our cornerstone.

In fertile soil the tree is planted.

Aid our arguments, so that thou art not supplanted.

Faith, Hope and Love, I know these to be true.

For love of Christ, I will dialogue with you.

Broken Ministers

What a beautiful thing to sit in a mentored ministry class…The room is full of broken people. Recovering porn addicts, recovering drug addicts, survivors of abuse, 2 former correctional officers, a psychologist, and me…Me in the midst of my struggles with depression, body image and past mistakes.

Yet here we all are teaching each other about how to minister to those traditionally looked on as “outside the church”. Ministering in brokenness…Jesus was the only perfect child of God, because we can’t be.

How do we bring the outsider in? By recognizing that their brokenness may be different, but no worse or better than mine. We need to stop expecting people to “act Christian” before they even come into Church.

Must Faith Follow Reason?

But that doesn’t make any sense…how can you believe that a man died and rose again after 3 days, and your ‘eyewitness’ accounts are written more than 70 years after the fact. -Sam Atheist

Pastors are (or should be) encouraging their flock to go out into the secular world and share their faith. But often we are ill prepared to do this. Many times we will encounter people who are outright antagonistic and think Christianity is outright stupidity. Indeed many can present seemingly challenging criticism like that mentioned above, and the conversation especially in an online forum goes downhill from there. Our evidence comes from the Bible, yet our hearers don’t except that as an authoritative source. Many faithful, rather than effectively evangelizing, find their faith genuinely challenged by others questions…

William Lane Craig talks about the difference between “knowing” the gospel to be true and “showing” the gospel to be true. We can know the gospel to be true based on the inner testimony of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  During his time at Wheaton, Craig was exposed to an ideology that faith must always give way to reason. Therefore, if faith was countered by reason one must give up their faith.

Craig argues in the book , Five Views on Apologetics, that this is absurd! No we aren’t supposed to give up our personal faith, even when seemingly defeated by reason. “Some persons simply lack the ability, time, or resources to come up with successful defeaters of the antitheistic defeaters that they encounter” (Craig 34). The Holy Spirit is a ‘self-authenticating’ witness that, while not directly countering defeating arguments, overwhelms  them.

We “know” our faith based on the Holy Spirit, but when we seek to “show” our faith we need to provide evidence. Reason is the only way to break a deadlock between those who claim to have a conflicting experience with the Spirit, or who do not accept the Spirit as a valid witness at all. The role of the Spirit in showing others is prevenient grace, working on their hearts and minds to promote honest consideration of our arguments.

I think Pastor’s would be well advised to prepare their congregations to face the questions of the “Sam Atheists” of the world. We need to have both faith and reason; the faith to withstand questions, even those we may not have the answers to and the reasoning and apologetics to “show” our faith effectively to others.

 

 

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Becoming a Daughter of the House

 

This January I was officially admitted into Nashotah House, an Episcopal Seminary in Nashotah, Wisconsin. I am now a dual-enrolled seminarian because I’m still earning my Masters in Divinity from Asbury Theological Seminary.

As part of my final year of my journey towards ordination, I’m earning my certificate in Anglican Studies. I was so proud and pleased to be able to attend Matriculation this January at Nashotah House and sign my name into the book of sons and daughters of the house that agree to abide by her rules and train there.