Tag Archives: Sermon on the Mount

Why People Hate the Sermon on the Mount (Virginia Stem Owens)

Virginia Stem Owens

Our church is studying the Sermon on the Mount this fall, from Matthew 5-7.  In this past week’s sermon, one of our associate pastors, Rich Sylvester, found an essay by Virginia Stem Owens, an English professor who was teaching a class at Texas A&M University, 25 years ago. When Owens asked her students to read the Sermon on the Mount, she was a bit stunned by the written responses of her students:

“I had expected them to have at least a nodding acquaintance with the reading and to express a modicum of piety in their written responses. After all, Texas has always been considered at least marginally part of the Bible Belt.The first paper I picked up began, “In my opinion religion is one big hoax.” I was mildly surprised since this came from a student who had never expressed a single iconoclastic notion the entire semester. I glanced at the opening sentence of the next paper: “There is an old saying that ‘you shouldn’t believe everything you read’ and it applies in this case.”

Owens realized that very few students had ever read the Sermon on the Mount before. Not only that, whether her students were familiar with the Bible or not, the consensus of the class was that they found the sermon to be quite offensive.  Blogger Andy Naselli posted a copy of Owens’ paper online. It is worth reading over and praying over.

HT: Andy Naselli

Christian Imagination?

Imagination.  Is there such a thing as a godly imagination in the life of a believer in Christ?

Imagination. Is there such a thing as godly imagination in the life of a believer in Christ?

Is there a place for imagination in the spiritual life of the Christian?   Some critics argue that Christian faith stifles human creativity.   Does the use of imagination in worship and prayer lead to spiritual transformation or spiritual depravity?

On the one side, the Bible consistently warns that a misplaced imagination will distract the Christian from true worship.  For example, everywhere in the classic King James Version, in contrast with more modern translations, the English word imagination from the original Hebrew and Greek phrases always carries a negative meaning (then contrast with ESV). For example:

But they hearkened not, nor inclined their ear, but walked in the counsels and in the imagination of their evil heart, and went backward, and not forward (Jeremiah 7:24 KJV).

Clearly, it is possible to become so engrossed in our own imagination, or someone else’s imagination projected towards us, that we fail to hear God. In our television-saturated world and ultra-realistic CGI animation movies, the massive feast before our eyes can easily clog up our ears to God’s Word. Even in the church, if in our Sunday morning services we find ourselves remembering more about the vivid illustration used by the preacher, and yet still unable to recall what Bible passage was being expounded upon, then I think we have a deadly serious problem.

OK.  So far, given this overview, the concept of imagination does not bode well in the life of a Christian.   But does this mean that all imagination is contrary to God’s purposes? Is there a more positive, biblical, even godly approach to imagination? Sometimes, in an effort to fight off counterfeit spirituality, we can easily throw out the baby with the bathwater.
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Call Yourself a “Christian”?

What does it mean to "follow after Jesus" as opposed to simply being a "Christian"?  Carl Medearis has some thought-provoking ideas.

What does it mean to “follow after Jesus” as opposed to simply being a “Christian”? Carl Medearis has some thought-provoking ideas.

If you call yourself a “Christian”, what do you mean by that? For some, being a “Christian” is something you inherit from your parents. For others, “Christian” is a political label. Does the word “Christian” communicate something you really mean to say?

I have a missionary friend of mine who supports the ministry of Carl Medearis. I had heard of Medearis before, and I have a book by him in my library that remains unread, Muslims, Christians, and Jesus: Gaining Understanding and Building Relationships. Like many folks today with tight schedules, I simply have not had the time to read the book. But I am a cheap guy, and so when my missionary friend sent me a link to download a **FREE** copy of Medearis’ latest book as part of a limited time offer, I thought “Sure, I’ll get it…. but I’ll probably never read it.” So I downloaded an electronic copy of Speaking of Jesus: The Art of Not-Evangelism. It is a fairly small book, so I just happened to glance at the title of the last chapter, “Gays, Liberals, and Muslims“….. Say whaa??

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Chi Rho

Veracity BlavatarIn the early days of Christianity, believers often paid the cost of discipleship with their lives.  Estimates are that 700,000 people died in the Roman Colosseum, where Christians were slaughtered for amusement at midday.  Followers of Jesus adopted Chi Rho as a christogram to symbolize their faith in Christ.   When choosing a graphical symbol for this blog the decision was pretty easy.

Depending upon where you live and your circumstances, life for a contemporary Christian can be quite comfortable.  While persecution of the Christian church is very real, in my corner of the world our faith is seldom called into the midday arena.  But I had dinner recently with the Reverend John Yates, whose faith was tested, and who paid a great price for his beliefs.

Without going down rabbit trails, the crux of the matter is a highly publicized dispute between the Episcopal Church and several Virginia congregations who took issue with the “intellectual integrity of faith in the modern world.”  The breakaway congregations felt that Episcopal leadership was acquiescing to contemporary culture instead of holding true to the Christian faith.  At the Chapel we have a Woodwardism (sayings attributable to Dick Woodward) that applies here: “Is the Church a thermostat or a thermometer?”  In other words, is the Church telling us what the temperature is, or is the Church setting the temperature?

The decision to leave (quoted below from a 2007 Washington Post article) resulted in the Diocese filing a lawsuit to regain the buildings and assets of the breakaway congregations.  The lawsuit dragged on for years, and cost millions of dollars in legal fees.  The court decided first in favor of the congregations, then reversed itself in favor of the Diocese.  John Yates’ The Falls Church congregation will have a final on-site service then vacate the premises on May 13, 2012.  They will then meet in rented facilities while they work out a long-term plan for their church house.

My purpose in blogging about this issue is not to cast stones at the Episcopal leadership, or to inflame anyone.  I just find it encouraging that in an age of stupendous cultural compromise there are believers willing to die on mountains for their faith.  How exciting for John Yates’ congregation.  I envy them in a way because church will be more expensive and less comfortable for quite some time, but what a privilege to know that your leadership is up to the task.  God bless.  Chi Rho.

Why We Left the Episcopal Church

By The Rev. John Yates and Os Guinness

The Washington Post
Monday, January 8, 2007

When even President Gerald Ford’s funeral at Washington National Cathedral is not exempt from comment about the crisis in the Episcopal Church, we believe it is time to set the record straight as to why our church and so many others around the country have severed ties with the Episcopal Church. Fundamental to a liberal view of freedom is the right of a person or group to define themselves, to speak for themselves and to not be dehumanized by the definitions and distortions of others. This right we request even of those who differ from us.

The core issue in why we left is not women’s leadership. It is not “Episcopalians against equality,” as the headline on a recent Post op-ed by Harold Meyerson put it. It is not a “leftward” drift in the church. It is not even primarily ethical — though the ordination of a practicing homosexual as bishop was the flash point that showed how far the repudiation of Christian orthodoxy had gone.

The core issue for us is theological: the intellectual integrity of faith in the modern world. It is thus a matter of faithfulness to the lordship of Jesus, whom we worship and follow. The American Episcopal Church no longer believes the historic, orthodox Christian faith common to all believers. Some leaders expressly deny the central articles of the faith — saying that traditional theism is “dead,” the incarnation is “nonsense,” the resurrection of Jesus is a fiction, the understanding of the cross is “a barbarous idea,” the Bible is “pure propaganda” and so on. Others simply say the creed as poetry or with their fingers crossed.

It would be easy to parody the “Alice in Wonderland” surrealism of Episcopal leaders openly denying what their faith once believed, celebrating what Christians have gone to the stake to resist — and still staying on as leaders. But this is a serious matter.

First, Episcopal revisionism abandons the fidelity of faith. The Hebrew scriptures link matters of truth to a relationship with God. They speak of apostasy as adultery — a form of betrayal as treacherous as a husband cheating on his wife.

Second, Episcopal revisionism negates the authority of faith. The “sola scriptura” (“by the scriptures alone”) doctrine of the Reformation church has been abandoned for the “sola cultura” (by the culture alone) way of the modern church. No longer under authority, the Episcopal Church today is either its own authority or finds its authority in the shifting winds of intellectual and social fashion — which is to say it has no authority.

Third, Episcopal revisionism severs the continuity of faith. Cutting itself off from the universal faith that spans the centuries and the continents, it becomes culturally captive to one culture and one time. While professing tolerance and inclusiveness, certain Episcopal attitudes toward fellow believers around the world, who make up a majority of the Anglican family, have been arrogant and even racist.

Fourth, Episcopal revisionism destroys the credibility of faith. There is so little that is distinctively Christian left in the theology of some Episcopal leaders, such as the former bishop of Newark, that a skeptic can say, as Oscar Wilde said to a cleric of his time, “I not only follow you, I precede you.” It is no accident that orthodox churches are growing and that almost all the great converts to the Christian faith in the past century, such as G.K. Chesterton and C.S. Lewis, have been attracted to full-blooded orthodoxy, not to revisionism. The prospect for the Episcopal Church, already evident in many dioceses, is inevitable withering and decline.

Fifth, Episcopal revisionism obliterates the very identity of faith. When the great truths of the Bible and the creeds are abandoned and there is no limit to what can be believed in their place, then the point is reached when there is little identifiably Christian in Episcopal revisionism. Would that Episcopal leaders showed the same zeal for their faith that they do for their property. If the present decline continues, all that will remain of a once strong church will be empty buildings, kept going by the finances, though not the faith, of the fathers.

These are the outrages we protest. These are the infidelities that drive us to separate. These are the real issues to be debated. We remain Anglicans but leave the Episcopal Church because the Episcopal Church first left the historic faith. Like our spiritual forebears in the Reformation, “Here we stand. So help us God. We can do no other.”

The Rev. John Yates is rector and Os Guinness is a parishioner of The Falls Church, one of several Virginia churches that voted last month to sever ties with the Episcopal Church

Sermon on the Mount

The core teachings of Jesus Christ are recorded in Matthew’s account of the Sermon on the Mount.  This video is an experiment, using the Glo Bible and other online resources to build upon Dick Woodward’s Mini Bible College lessons.  Dick has some unique views on the context and content of Jesus’ formative teaching.

[vimeo 30211208]

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