Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Our task today

The following extract is from P T Forsyth's The Cruciality of the Cross. It's the second half of a long paragraph covering pages 24/5.  I've posted the earlier part of the paragraph here if you feel this second, longer section is missing anything. However, it's this second section that's pertinent to this blog, with its focus on mission. Forsyth doesn't usually use the word mission much (although it does appear, in a form, towards the end of this extract) but it seems to me that this is precisely what he's talking about here. (I've broken it up slightly to aid reading it online.)

What is our task today? It is to take the mass of men (and not only the masses) – inert and hopeless some, others indifferent, others hostile to God – and to reconcile them with God’s holy will and righteous kingdom; but to reconcile them less with the ideal of a kingdom of God than with His way of it. They are keen enough about a kingdom which glorifies human ideals, but the trouble is about God’s ideal and God’s way, about Christ and His cross as the way as well as the goal. The task is to destroy our national and social dislike of that enthusiasm of the cross, to supplant lust by that higher ardour, to bend the strongest wills to the obedience of the holiest, and by moral regeneration to restore men both physically and socially. 
This is a tremendous task. It is the whole object of history. It is far beyond socialism. And no laws can do it, and no change of circumstances, but only Jesus Christ. It is the fruit of His work, of His holy love, His holy spirit, and His holy Church, all flowing from His holy cross. Let us not mistake the kindly fruits of the cross for the moral principle of it. The fruits will not give the principle, but the principle will give the fruits. 
And the more we are preoccupied with social righteousness so much the more we are driven to that centre where the whole righteousness of God and man found consummation, and adjustment, and a power and a career, in the saving judgement of Christ’s cross. Public liberty rest [sic] on inward freedom; and the cross alone gives moral freedom, and moral independence, to the mass of men, who were left to slavery even by the heroic moral aristocracy of stoicism. It is the cross that makes moral worth an infectious power, keeps character from being self-contained [that is, focused on self], and gives a moral guarantee of a steady social future.  The cross is the spring, not of self-possessed and individualist righteousness, but of that creative and contagious goodness which makes possible the social state. Only at the centre of the cross does the man find himself in his kind [at home amongst his fellow beings], and both in God. A creative, missionary, and social ethic springs only from religion; and it springs most from the religion which is able to clothe us with the power of the creative, loving, outgoing God.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Dave Test

I happened to check out Google + just now, and found a post from a guy called Frank Viola.  The name sounds familiar, and apparently his two blogs are regularly in the top 10 of all Christan blogs on the Web today, but I can't place him particularly. 

Anyway, he's talking about a book with the rather odd title, The Dave Test, by someone who's equally unknown to me: Frederick W Schmidt.  Even Viola admits that Schmidt is no celebrity, though the bio on Amazon shows he's no slug either, and this isn't his first book by any means.  I'll quote the bio in full:

Reverend Dr. Frederick W. Schmidt, Jr. is an Episcopal Priest, Director of Spiritual Formation and Anglican Studies, and Associate Professor of Christian Spirituality at Southern Methodist University, Perkins School of Theology in Dallas, Texas.

Prior to his arrival at SMU, he served as Canon Educator and Director of Programs in Spirituality and Religious Education at Washington National Cathedral; as special assistant to the President and Provost of La Salle University in Philadelphia; as a Fellow of the American Council on Education; and as Dean of St. George's College, Jerusalem. In addition he as served as a lecturer in New Testament studies at Oxford University, and as a Tutor in New Testament studies at Keble College, Oxford. He has been a guest lecturer at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, DC, the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland and the Southwestern Medical Center at the University of Texas, Dallas.

He is the author of numerous published articles and reviews, including entries in Doubleday's Anchor Bible Dictionary.
He is author of A Still Small Voice: Women, Ordination and the Church (Syracuse University Press, 1998); The Changing Face of God (Morehouse-Continuum, 2000); When Suffering Persists (Morehouse-Continuum, 2001); Conversations with Scripture: Revelation (Morehouse-Continuum, 2005); What God Wants for Your Life, Finding Answers to the Deepest Questions (HarperSanFrancisco, 2005); and Conversations with Scripture: Luke (Morehouse, 2009). Dr. Schmidt holds a bachelor's degree from Asbury College, the Masters of Divinity from Asbury Theological Seminary and the Doctor of Philosophy from Oxford University.

The Dave Test - its subtitle is A Raw Look at Real Faith in Hard Times - gets its name from the author's brother, who found he had a brain tumour, and the book aims to give its readers tools on what to say and what not to say to those who are in a major crisis. Words that help, rather than hurt.  This is the main reason I'm mentioning it on this blog, because it has the potential to be of considerable help to those in ministry, especially in those difficult times when someone comes to you and says they're giving up on God, because why would God let them have a cancer in the middle of a promising career, or why would God let their son die in a senseless accident...and so on.  Read Frank Viola's review, and his commending of the book.  And check out the reviews on Amazon, where you can also read a bit of the book.

Monday, November 04, 2013

Review of Manifesto for Learning

Over on Jason Goroncy's blog, Per Crucem ad Lucem, there's a review by Kevin Ward of the book, Manifesto for Learning: the mission of the church in times of change, written by Donn [sic] Morgan. Kevin's review begins....

This is a very brief little book that at first glance does not have much relevance for the church in New Zealand. It comes out of the crisis facing theological education in the US brought about by having far too many theological schools faced with rising costs, declining student numbers and reduced financial commitment from churches. That is a challenge for theological schools in New Zealand also, as I am aware both through teaching in one and being involved at executive level with both the New Zealand and Australia New Zealand Associations of such schools. However, as I read it I realised much of what was being discussed, both in terms of challenges and suggested ways ahead, was generally true for the church in New Zealand as well as theological education.

Read the remainder of the review here...