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Martyred for the Gospel

Martyred for the Gospel
The burning of Tharchbishop of Cant. D. Tho. Cranmer in the town dich at Oxford, with his hand first thrust into the fyre, wherwith he subscribed before. [Click on the picture to see Cranmer's last words.]

Collect of the Day

The Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany.
The Collect.

O LORD, we beseech thee to keep thy Church and household continually in thy true religion; that they who do lean only upon the hope of thy heavenly grace may evermore be defended by thy mighty power; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Daily Bible Verse

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Theological Reflection On Ruby's Homily on Poverty Part I - YouTube




Recently I was enrolled in the Educator Preparation Institute at Polk State College.  I wanted to try teaching school.  Unfortunately, because I have a criminal record--no felony convictions by the way--from 1986 and again in 1999 (divorce issues) I am unemployable as a teacher in Florida.  No, I'm not a sex offender or a felon.

I was surprised to find that there was a big emphasis on Ruby Payne as an expert on class rules and discrimination.  I was even more surprised to learn via You Tube that Miss Ruby is also an Episcopalian and most likely a theological liberal.  Why am I not surprised that even liberals perpetuate prejudice and discrimination against the poor by reinforcing the stereotypes and the middle class bias of the public schools against the poor?  This is evident to me due to my hard work to get an education and even to work as a public school teacher, yet I am suspect because of some ancient history.

Polk County, Florida will not hire anyone as a teacher or substitute teacher or bus driver who has ever had an adjudication withheld on a felony charge.  Yes, I was charged with a felony in 1986 but was not convicted because I completed a probationary period of 3 years.  Hardee County School District recently turned me down for the same reason.

I can only call this pelagianism.  It reminds me of Les Miserables where Jean Valjean never escapes from the law, a metaphor for the moral law.  Ironically, the police officer, Javert, who refuses to forgive Jean Valjean ends up being so convicted by his own hatred that he commits suicide.

Upton Sinclair said of the novel, Les Miserables, by Victor Hugo:

So long as there shall exist, by reason of law and custom, a social condemnation, which, in the face of civilization, artificially creates hells on earth, and complicates a destiny that is divine with human fatality; so long as the three problems of the age—the degradation of man by poverty, the ruin of women by starvation, and the dwarfing of childhood by physical and spiritual night—are not solved; so long as, in certain regions, social asphyxia shall be possible; in other words, and from a yet more extended point of view, so long as ignorance and misery remain on earth, books like this cannot be useless.  (Wikipedia article).

Basically, unless you are perfectly sinless like Christ, you will never be forgiven of your crimes against God and man.  You are a miserable sinner who cannot even rise to the level of the Pharisees, much less God (Matthew 5:17-20, 48; Romans 10:1-4).  Unless you and I have an alien righteousness, you and I will perish in the judgment without mercy (Philippians 3:9; James 2:13; Matthew 18:32; Proverbs 21:13; Matthew 25:36).

While I am a theological conservative, I must say that this does not mean that the Gospel is only about eternal salvation.  It is that, of course.  No one gets out of this life alive.  The ultimate question then is, "Where will you spend eternity?" (Hebrews 9:27).  The problem is that when the Gospel is only about morality from below, or sanctification, then the result is the social gospel.  The liberals can tell you all about how to treat your fellow man but they have no clue about the Gospel of sovereign grace or the deity of the man, Jesus Christ.

On the other hand, theological conservatives from the middle class are often self-righteous and Pharisaical because they view themselves as having kept God's moral law to some degree and that somehow makes them worthy of the material blessings they have.  They have little to no concern for the poor.  Jesus, however, looked upon the poor multitudes and said:

But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd. 37 Then He said to His disciples, "The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. 38 "Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest." (Matthew 9:36-38 NKJ)
As you can see there is no separation between social action and the eternal salvation of souls in the Bible.  The liberals err by gutting the Gospel of the supernatural and eternal salvation of the souls of human beings.  Conservatives often err by being so concerned for eternal salvation and their own middle class values that they neglect the social aspect of ministry to the poor.  Jesus neglected neither.  In fact, as much as I disagree with the social gospel and the Sojourner mentality of Jim Wallis, I must also admit that the theological conservatives fall way short of the mark in the area of sanctification and social works as an outgrowth of their concern for the lost:

He said to him the third time, "Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?" Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, "Do you love Me?" And he said to Him, "Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You." Jesus said to him, "Feed My sheep. (John 21:17 NKJ)

There is a preferential option for the poor in the Gospels which the Evangelical middle class overlooks because they are reading the Bible through their own paradigm of middle class social values and rules.  (See Ruby Payne:  Hidden Rules).

Remember the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:20-31).  Remember the judgment in Matthew 25:31-46).  You never hear conservative ministers interpret this as a social responsibility to the poor.  Rather it is always interpreted as a personal judgment of the saved and the lost in the eschaton.  Of course, it is that.  But even more than that, this is a judgment against churches who promote social prejudices against the poor and the disenfranchised.  This is not just a moral lesson from a theologically liberal social gospel.  It is the message that the self-righteous who take credit for their works will be surprised to learn their works did not measure up.  John MacArthur and Paul Washer might be in for a surprise (Matthew 7:21-23; Matthew 25:44-46).  On the other hand, those who live by faith naturally do good works without seeing them as a means of justifying themselves (Matthew 25:37-40).  Pharisees come in many varieties, both theologically liberal and theologically conservative.  They will both perish unless they do greater works than the original Pharisees (Matthew 5:20).  The trouble is no one measures up (Matthew 5:48; Romans 6:23; Romans 3:10-12, 23).  It is only by faith than anyone will be saved and only by faith that truly good works and social action arises (Romans 1:16-17; Ephesians 2:8-10).

Those who advocate personal sanctification as part of the basis of their own salvation are essentially confusing justification by faith alone with the doctrine of sanctification.  But they do not realize that personal sanctification is not enough.  They would also need to help the poor, which their theology never even considers.  Let them consider the end of the rich man in the parable of beggar named Lazarus (Luke 16:20-31).

Jesus saw the sheep as helpless and without a shepherd and the harvest is ripe (Matthew 9:36-38).  But as we are going to minister to the poor and the prisoner and the widow and orphan, we are also to preach the Gospel and make disciples (Matthew 28:18-20;  James 1:27; Matthew 25:36).

We are to repent of our self-righteousness and trust in Christ alone to save us (Revelation 3:16-19).  But that does not remove our social responsibility to love our neighbor here on earth (Luke 10:29).  A personal sanctification that has no concern for the lost or for their physical necessities here on earth is a worthless sanctification and nothing more than filthy rags in God's sight (Isaiah 64:6).

I have a personal investment in this message.  I am literally trusting God at the moment because I am unemployed and unable to find work.  But I know that God is sovereign and that He will provide for all my needs.  He may not meet them the way I would like but He does provide.  The Pharisees may reject me and you, but remember that God never rejects one of His elect sheep who trusts in Christ and Christ alone to save them (Titus 3:5-7; Romans 16:25-27).

The prayer of humble access in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer is part of the liturgy for the Lord's Supper.  I love that prayer because it reminds me of Titus 3:5-7:

WE do not presume to come to this thy Table, O merciful Lord, trusting in our own righteousness, but in thy manifold and great mercies. We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under thy Table. But thou art the same Lord, whose property is always to have mercy: Grant us therefore, gracious Lord, so to eat the flesh of thy dear Son Jesus Christ, and to drink his blood, that our sinful bodies may be made clean by his body, and our souls washed through his most precious blood, and that we may evermore dwell in him, and he in us. Amen.  (Holy Communion, 1662 Book of Common Prayer).

The Comfortable Words part of the service likewise brings comfort to the elect in their troubles and in the vicissitudes of life:


Hear what comfortable words our Saviour Christ saith unto all that truly turn to him.
COME unto me all that travail and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you. St. Matth. xi. 28.  (Matthew 11:28).
    So God loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, to the end that all that believe in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. St. John iii. 16  (John 3:16).
Hear also what Saint Paul saith.
    This is a true saying, and worthy of all men to be received, That Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. 1 Tim. i. 15.  (1 Timothy 1:15).
Hear also what Saint John saith.
    If any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the propitiation for our sins. 1 St. John ii. 1.  (1 John 2:1).  (Holy Communion, 1662 BCP).

May the peace of God be with you all and may He grant you the grace to believe the Gospel of grace and minister to His elect but poor and helpless sheep who are scattered throughout the world (John 10:16; John 11:52).

Addendum:  See also James 2:1-10

Ruby's Homily on Poverty Part I - YouTube

5 comments:

Alcuin Bramerton said...

You suggest, Charlie, that: "No one gets out of this life alive."

Other views, of course, are possible.

One is that God is Life, and that there is nothing outside God.

There being nothing outside God, everyone is alive all the time, always has been and always will be. There is no such thing as death.

On this view, death is an invention of spiritually illiterate theologians.

Charlie J. Ray said...

For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven, if indeed, having been clothed, we shall not be found naked. For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life. Now He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight. We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord. Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are well known to God, and I also trust are well known in your consciences. For we do not commend ourselves again to you, but give you opportunity to boast on our behalf, that you may have an answer for those who boast in appearance and not in heart. For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; or if we are of sound mind, it is for you. For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again. Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

Charlie J. Ray said...

The soul and the body are separated at physical death. The soul lives on either in God's presence in heaven or in punishment in hell until the resurrection for judgment of punishments and rewards. (Hebrew 9:27).

Charlie J. Ray said...

Of course the soul lives on after the tabernacle of the body dies. And at the resurrection the soul is united with the resurrected spiritual body. But most everyone reading my post recognizes that mortality is a universal human experience. We are born to die, literally.

Charlie J. Ray said...

Hebrews 9:27

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