Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Spe Salvi facti sumus……in hope we were saved

In the encyclical about hope running into about 75 pages, Pope Benedict is not proposing a facile hope in heaven undoing injustices of life on earth. Indeed, this is where he brings in Dostoyevsky. The Pope asserts that "the last Judgment is not primarily an image of terror, but an image of hope". A world without God is a world without hope, and "God is justice". Only God can provide the justice that sustains hope in the better future—the eternal life—for one and all. "God is justice and creates justice. This is our consolation and our hope. And in his justice there is also grace. This we know by turning our gaze to the crucified and risen Christ. Both these things—justice and grace—must be seen in their correct inner relationship."

With justice comes grace, yet "grace does not cancel out justice. It does not make wrong into right. It is not a sponge which wipes everything away, so that whatever someone has done on Earth ends up being of equal value. Dostoyevsky, for example, was right to protest against this kind of Heaven and this kind of grace in his novel "The Brothers Karamazov". Evildoers, in the end, do not sit at table at the eternal banquet beside their victims without distinction, as though nothing had happened."

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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Vatican welcome to Anglicans boldest move since Reformation

The Vatican launched an historic initiative Tuesday to make it easier for disgruntled Anglicans worldwide to join the Roman Catholic Church. The church said the move was not a swipe at the Anglicans but it could nevertheless result in hundreds of thousands of churchgoers unhappy with openly gay and female clerics defecting to Rome.

Pope Benedict XVI gave his approval to a new framework to bring back into the fold Anglicans who oppose their church's liberal stance on gay marriage and the ordination of women priests and gay bishops while allowing them to retain some of their separate religious traditions.

The move comes nearly 500 years after Henry VIII's desire for a divorce led him to break with Rome and proclaim himself as the head of the newly formed Church of England in 1534. The framework is the Vatican's most sweeping gesture toward any schismatic church since the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century and the Thirty Years' War that followed it in the 17th century. That war ended with the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, which acknowledged the right of monarchs rather than the Vatican to determine their national faiths, prompting Pope Innocent X to declare the document "null, void, invalid, iniquitous, unjust, damnable, reprobate, inane, empty of meaning and effect for all time."

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Thursday, August 20, 2009



    1. "Change" is the word for the 90's.  To some change means progress; for others it poses a threat.  On the one hand it seems that some among us think that any change would be better than what we have and they are ready to try almost anything as long as it is new.  Others of us, however, see this as a very dangerous attitude because we see some of the suggested changes as being departures from the Biblical pattern.  Obviously there are some changes which are harmless and may be helpful, but we need to be cautious about changes that might affect doctrinal purity.  Extremes in either direction can be hurtful.  To favor change simply because it is change may lead to a rejection of New Testament authority.  To oppose a change simply because it is different from that to which we are accustomed can be a repudiation of Christian liberty.

    2. We have chosen Phil. 3:4-16 as the framework for "A Balanced Approach to Change."  Of course, Paul was not dealing with identical circumstances, but the text will show us some principles that can help us with the issue of change.


I. It will be Helpful for Us to Reflect on what We Left behind in our Pursuit of Pure Christianity.

     A. Phil. 3:4-6 describe Paul's former religion. In the eyes of the world, in the eyes of popular religion, his position was impressive. What is clear, however, is that he had no desire to go back to those things. The Pharisee "denomination" was something Paul had known from the inside, and he saw no merit in its traditions.

     B. Some of us have personally came out of certain denominations to embrace Biblical truth. This should have the effect of making us especially cautious in regard to changes that would move us toward the errors that we left.

     C. One thing necessary to help us to keep a balanced perspective regarding change is, therefore, that we keep in mind that the faiths and practices of denominationalism, though sometimes appealing on the surface, are worthless and destructive. We have no more reason for wanting to be like modern sects than Paul had for wanting to be like the Pharisees.

II. As We Consider Changes We must Make Sure We are not Pursuing the Wrong Goals.

    A. While the text expresses it in several ways, the only thing that mattered to Paul was that he please Christ, being acceptable to Him (Phil. 3:7-11).  The context names things especially related to his Jewish heritage (Phil. 3:4-6), but "all things" are meaningless compared to being accepted by Christ.

    B. There is a particular temptation to make and our religious practices more compatible with things considered "important" to the world.  However, here are some things we must guard against:

    1. An inordinate obsession with numbers and budgets.  It sometimes seems that "church growth" has become an end in itself.

    2. The desire to be intellectually sophisticated.  Is this what is behind the idea that a "new hermeneutic" must replace what is considered to be "simplistic pattern theology"?

    3. Pressure to be "politically correct."  For example, to continue to forbid women to preach will label us as "sexists."

    4. Compatibility with culture.  Proposed changes in music would (allegedly) be more appealing to an entertainment-oriented society.  Some are asserting that drama is more preferable to preaching sermons.

III. But a Balanced Approach regarding Change also Requires that We Understand that Some Changes will always Be in Order.

    A. Paul did not claim perfection (Phil. 3:12-14).  Where there is room for growth, there is room for change.  This is not always what those calling for change mean, of course, but personally we must admit our lack of perfection.

    B. In one sense, therefore, we can speak of a completed restoration. On the other hand, we should realize that restoration is never complete, so long as we have not "already attained, neither were already perfect."

    C. As an over-reaction against radical calls for change we may resist even Scriptural and helpful improvements.

    1. It is folly not to accept changes in the way we do things when such changes are Scriptural and expedient.  History will show that things now generally found to be useful were historically resisted because they represented change.  (For examples, Sunday classes, individual communion cups, etc.)

    2. It is the heresy of presumption to condemn others for changes that are not violations of Scripture, even though they are different from that to which we have been accustomed, and even though we may doubt their value (cf.  Deut. 18:20.)

IV. It Is Essential, however, that We never Give Up what has already been Attained in Faith and Practice.

    A. The NASB renders Phil. 3:16, "However, let us keep living by that same standard to which we have attained."

    B. The principle applies to both personal holiness and the practice of the church.  Today we should be committed to New Testament Christianity. We should insist that the Bible be our only standard.  Appropriating the words of Paul, the point is that we must be faithful to what we have already found to be right (cf. 2 John 1:9.)

    C. Our concern for this will make us cautious.

    1. Some changes which at first seem acceptable may be, in actuality, stepping-stones to error.

    2. Things may be in the realm of judgment, but would be bad judgment.


    Certain key questions are always in order when changes are suggested: Is it Scriptural?  Is it safe?  Is it really profitable?  And, do others have a Scriptural right to choose this change, even if it is not my personal choice?

Ideas expressed by David Pharr

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Why Does the Date for Easter Change Every Year

Why does the date for Easter change every year? Have you ever wondered
why Easter Sunday can fall anywhere between March 22 and April 25? And
why do Eastern Orthodox churches celebrate Easter on a different day
than Western churches? These are all good questions with answers that
require a bit of explanation. In fact, there are as many
misunderstandings about the calculation of Easter dates, as there are
reasons for the confusion. What follows is an attempt to clear up at
least some of the confusion.

In Western Christianity, Easter is always celebrated on the Sunday
immediately following the Paschal Full Moon date of the year. I had
previously, and somewhat erroneously stated, "Easter is always
celebrated on the Sunday immediately following the first full moon
after the vernal (spring) equinox." This statement was true prior to
325 AD; however, over the course of history (beginning in 325 AD with
the Council of Nicea), the Western Church decided to established a
more standardized system for determining the date of Easter.

In actuality, the date of the Paschal Full Moon is determined from
historical tables, and has no correspondence to lunar events.

As Astronomers were able to approximate the dates of all the full
moons in future years, the Western Christian Church used these
calculations to establish a table of Ecclesiastical Full Moon dates.
These dates would determine the Holy Days on the Ecclesiastical

Though modified slightly from its original form, by 1583 AD the table
for determining the Ecclesiastical Full Moon dates was permanently
established and has been used ever since to determine the date of
Easter. Thus, according to the Ecclesiastical tables, the Paschal Full
Moon is the first Ecclesiastical Full Moon date after March 20 (which
happened to be the vernal equinox date in 325 AD). So, in Western
Christianity, Easter is always celebrated on the Sunday immediately
following the Paschal Full Moon.

The Paschal Full Moon can vary as much as two days from the date of
the actual full moon, with dates ranging from March 21 to April 18. As
a result, Easter dates can range from March 22 through April 25 in
Western Christianity.

Historically, western churches used the Gregorian Calendar to
calculate the date of Easter and Eastern Orthodox churches used the
Julian Calendar. This was partly why the dates were seldom the same.

Easter and its related holidays do not fall on a fixed date in either
the Gregorian or Julian calendars, making them movable holidays. The
dates, instead, are based on a lunar calendar very similar to the
Hebrew Calendar.

While some Eastern Orthodox Churches not only maintain the date of
Easter based on the Julian Calendar which was in use during the First
Ecumenical Council of Nicea in 325 AD, they also use the actual,
astronomical full moon and the actual vernal equinox as observed along
the meridian of Jerusalem. This complicates the matter, due to the
inaccuracy of the Julian calendar, and the 13 days that have accrued
since 325 AD. This means, in order to stay in line with the originally
established (325 AD) vernal equinox, Orthodox Easter cannot be
celebrated before April 3 (present day Gregorian calendar), which was
March 21 in 325 AD.

Additionally, in keeping with the rule established by the First
Ecumenical Council of Nicea, the Eastern Orthodox Church adhered to
the tradition that Easter must always fall after the Jewish Passover,
since the death, burial and Resurrection of Christ happened after the
celebration of Passover. Eventually the Orthodox Church came up with
an alternative to calculating Easter based on the Gregorian calendar
and Passover, and developed a 19-year cycle, as opposed to the Western
Church 84-year cycle.

Since the days of early church history, determining the precise date
of Easter has been a matter for continued argument. For one, the
followers of Christ neglected to record the exact date of Jesus'
resurrection. From then on the matter grew increasingly complex.

Mary Fairchild