Solomon presents us with the sum total of human existence—to eat, drink, work hard, and enjoy God. Pretty basic stuff. And don’t miss the last part: “For apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment?” Ultimately the good life won’t be realized without an encounter with our Creator.
Deprived of meaningful work, men and women lose their reason for existence; they go stark, raving mad.
When God put Adam in the garden, he did a remarkable thing. He set him to work. This fact is even more remarkable when we remember that Eden was already a paradise. There was lots of food (Gen. 2:18), water (Gen. 2:10), and gold (Moses is even careful to mention that the gold was good—no dragon curses here). There were no weeds to pull, no graves to dig, and no swords to sharpen. In one sense, everything was already done.
And yet Adam was told to “cultivate and keep” the garden. He was to work towards its further beautification. He was to be an active agent of dominion; organizing the raw material around him by means of his own creative labour. This tells us something else important: work wasn’t an intrusion. Futility was the intrusion (Gen. 3:19). Work has been God’s idea from the beginning. This fact is reiterated in passages like 2 Thessalonians 6:10–12:
For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living.
Paul’s command to the Thesseloninans is a call back to the Genesis mandate. He reminds them that work is the proper sphere in which we occupy the majority of our lives: pouring foundations, changing diapers, hoeing beets, teaching math, and generating spreadsheets. For those who consider work above, beneath, or beyond them, the verdict is clear: let them not eat. If you don’t sow beets in the spring, you shouldn’t expect to eat them with cheese and beer in the fall. In the words of a famous ex-nun, “Nothing comes from nothing, nothing ever could.”
Not only is it reasonable to expect a labouring people to follow in the wake of a labouring God, it is also necessary. It is through investing one’s own labour that each person is able to earn their own living. “By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground.” Sweat equity is the original and best kind of equity. Lincoln had it right here:
Labor is prior to and independent of capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.
The gift of labour also preserves us from the dehumanizing effects of idleness. Idleness—the state of NOT being at work—is fertile ground for sin. Which means we shouldn’t be surprised when diehard welfare states are also riddled with crime. The less people busy at work, the more time they have “to lie on their beds and make evil plans” (Micah 2:1). Through work, the effects of decay and are also kept at bay; roads can be repaired, lawns mowed, homes heated, and taxes kept low.
When only a small core of society is actually engaged in labour, the pool of capital (available wealth) dries up, and new taxes are introduced to replenish it. Which are then immediately sent back out to fund the magical endeavours of the unemployed.
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By Rod Dreher — 2 years ago
“Love seeks the highest welfare of the people we are called to serve. Love seeks that welfare, love serves that welfare, love sacrifices for that welfare. And that seeking, serving, and sacrificing are three essential foundations of love. It was of course, to this same Corinthian Church that Paul wrote his great hymn of love in chapter 13, If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love… I am nothing. I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. That is what you are Christian if you are without love. American or not – you are nothing without love.”I’ve been this week at the conference of the Anglican Diocese of the Living Word (ACNA), led by Bishop Julian Dobbs. The bishop gave his annual address on Friday morning, and … Lord have mercy, if only ten percent of bishops and pastors talked like this man, we would be living in a different country. I present to you here the entire text (absent a personal remembrance of three recently deceased members of the diocese). Imagine a bishop talking like this! Catholics and Orthodox can scarcely wrap our minds around it. I asked the diocesan communications director to send me the text, which was so extraordinary. Here it is:In the name of God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.As a young lad, I was forded the great privilege of attending an Anglican boys boarding school from the age of 9. This was an expensive commitment for my parents who both sacrificed significantly for me to have this opportunity. My parents believed that education, respect, formation, opportunity and a valuing of order and tradition were values they wanted to gift and impart into their young son.
It was here, at King’s School and later at King’s College that my commitment to follow Christ began to focus and my formation as an Anglican converged, setting the course for the future determined for me by God. It was here at King’s, worshiping Christ often twice on a Sunday, using the daily office from the Book of Common Prayer 1662, that I began to wrestle at age eleven, with what I come to know as a vocation to serve God in Holy Orders.
Singing in the chapel choir, enamored by the hymns of Watts and Wesley, I would often be transfixed during worship on a verse of Scripture that was inscribed on the northwestern wall of the Chapel of the Holy Child.
Stand fast in the faith, be strong. (1 Corinthians 16, verse 13). What an outstanding choice of scripture to inspire young boys. Virtus pollet – the school motto, virtue prevails, become men, be servants, be leaders, Stand fast in the faith, be strong. This is part of the formation that has shaped some of the DNA of my own episcopacy. As a disciple of Christ in any form of leadership or ministry in the church of this generation, 1 Corinthians 16, verse 13 has a notable sense of urgency, Stand fast in the faith, be strong.
In this pastoral address today, I want us to consider from Scripture what are the foundational exhortations that will enable us to stand fast in the faith in our context across the Anglican Diocese of the Living Word, in our nation and beyond our borders. You ask me, why is this important? I would say to you, as we listen and talk about the issues confronting North America and the world, it appears that the Bible is no longer in vogue. So let us go to the Bible and find out what it says for us today, in our context.
In the final chapter of his first letter to the Corinthians, the Apostle Paul breaks into his final instructions and gives his final greetings with five short, staccato commands, or imperatives that would later be inscribed, in part, upon that northwestern wall of my school chapel.
Look at it again. It is a wonderful text. Be vigilant… Be watchful, that is, stand firm in your faith, be strong, be courageous. And let all that you do be done in love.
It is interesting that each of the five commands pre-supposes some problem, some difficulty, some responsibility, or temptation within the Corinthian Church which makes the commands necessary.
1. Be watchful
Keep awake is the exhortation from Paul. The implication here is that we have enemies ‘out there’ and we cannot afford to relax our vigilance. It seems today, that no believer can ever afford to disconnect, because frankly we do not know when the crisis is going to come and when we will find ourselves on the ropes. Things change, things change in states, in countries, things change in workplaces, things change in families frighteningly quickly and we can find our backs against the wall. Stand up at work for some inconvenient point about honesty or integrity and suddenly your boss says, you are not performing quite as well as you were and maybe the time has come to move on. Tell your parents you are having to make some changes as a result of a Christian commitment and suddenly there is an icy coolness that creeps into what you thought was a solid relationship.
Be watchful! There are real wars taking place today in the realm of ideas. Real wars attempting to control idea-shaping institutions, congregations, seminaries and denominations – and biblical truth—a prize far more precious than any army has ever contended for—is at stake.
At the center of this attack against Christ, his word and his faithful followers is a subtle, wicked, unscrupulous, very powerful archenemy called Satan. He is an adversary who prowls around seeking someone to devour.
He uses politicians, pastors, priests, prelates and anyone he can entice.
One politician recently said in a speech to our nation which advocated for and unreservedly supported and advanced transgenderism, that parents of transgender children should be encouraged to affirm their child’s identity as one of the most powerful things they can do to keep them safe and healthy. How could such advocacy be safe and healthy when 82% of transgender individuals have considered killing themselves and 40% have attempted suicide.
Transgender individuals are not the enemy. They are loved by Christ. But be watchful, for we are wrestling against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. People of God, there are real wars taking place today for the control of our minds and our bodies. And if politicians are vulnerable – Satan will attack there. If priests and bishops depart the faith once for all entrusted to the saints – Satan will attack there.
Jesus speaks of Satan as a wolf in the clothing or the disguise of a sheep. And he creeps up unnoticed when leaders are at their most vulnerable, when their guard is down.
Be watchful – be vigilant. That is the exhortation from Paul in these verses. For when we lose ground to Satan, it is a tough fight to reverse the trend and bring about the required course correction.
In their 2021 statement to the Church, the bishops of the Anglican Church in North America reminded the faithful that, ‘while questions pertaining to human identity are ancient, a certain vividness around personal identity has been introduced into our current cultural conversation.
Our society has collapsed into a sexual world view which attempts to redefine the image of God in humanity as predominantly one of sexual orientation and behavior.
In the liturgy of the Consecration of Bishops, a bishop commits himself, with all faithful diligence to banish and drive away from the Church all erroneous and strange doctrine contrary to God’s Word and both privately and publicly to call upon others and encourage them to do the same?
Therefore, I believe that it is my responsibility as your diocesan bishop to provide direction and speak clearly as the Church navigates these crucial and important matters.
The Bible is clear on matters of sexual identity. God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.10 Therefore, any confusion of the sexes is a distortion of God’s created order. Some Christians have great difficulty with these biblical foundations. They will often point you to the experience of a much loved family member and tell you how they have been significantly influenced by someone who identifies him or her self in a way that is inconsistent with their biological sex.
While all Christians should show compassion and empathy when possible to the personal experiences of others, the Anglican Diocese of the Living Word cannot and will not recognize personal experience as revelatory. We believe that our identity must be grounded in the truth about creation which is revealed in the Scriptures and in God’s Son, our Savior Jesus Christ.
This biblical truth is under attack today within our culture and from within the evangelical church. As a result, I have appointed a task force in the diocese, chaired by The Rev. Matthew Kennedy, to help us wrestle with what it means to be created male and female in the image of God. I have asked the task force to prepare guidelines to assist us in our ministry with individuals who are already in our congregations or come to the diocese in the future and are wrestling with sexual identity.
In their report, which the clergy will receive tomorrow, the task force says this, ‘God is the author of all good things. The world that He has made includes men and women and our Lord said that from the beginning God made human beings “male and female” (Matthew 19:4). Yet this is a cultural moment when there is increasing confusion about the significance of this order and about whether Christians should think about being male or female as something that is given and fixed, or as something that is to a substantial degree malleable and self-chosen.’
Thank you Matt and the members of your task force, for your focused work.
Let me tell you why this is so important. The Holy Scriptures have been given to us by God and as a result, the word of God written is extraordinarily precious. The bible tells the world what it does not wish to hear. We should not expect to be embraced by those whose thoughts and deeds contradict the truths of our faith. Nor should we seek to make our faith more palatable, lest the salt lose its savor. As Dr. Carl Trueman has written, ‘Accommodating the world’s demands is a fool’s errand.’
I urge you to establish a framework of discipline in your life that has regular and robust biblical study and reflection. We build our beliefs and ethics, not from the loudest or the most appealing voices in the public square, academia or the corridors of power; we build our beliefs and ethics from a robust engagement with Scripture.
This is why I urge you to participate in a weekly bible study group in your congregation to study the Bible and build accountable relationships with other Christians. We need faithful friends!
Friends who will love us. Friends who will encourage us. Friends who will pray regularly for us and friends who will bark loudly like watch dogs when they perceive in us the first glimmerings of compromise. People of God, be watchful!
2. Stand firm in the faith.
Staying awake, keeping our guard, maintaining our vigilance – yes, indeed! Paul adds (vs.13) Stand firm in the faith. Stand firmly planted against all the pressures to conform. Stability is a much desired quality in almost every sphere of our lives.
About 6 weeks ago, I was visiting Holy Cross Anglican Church in the Historic Third Ward in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. As I waited for the plane to depart on my return journey, the pilot informed the passengers that our flight was delayed in order to reconfigure and stabilize our aircraft. The plane I was on was a small aircraft and it required the crew to accurately compute the center of gravity so that the plane would appropriately level off in flight.
Some days later, I sought the wisdom and experience of U.S. Air Force pilot, Colonel Karen Love to explain the situation to me. Karen told me the center of gravity ensures the plane flies within its specified parameters. Without proper balance, the plane might be nose low or nose high upon leveling off at altitude. She said, the pilot must be cognizant of aerodynamic balance and stabilization to ensure maximum flight fuel and course efficiency.
It seemed to me that Karen was saying… the plane needs to be stable!
Paul exhorts us to be stable. Aerodynamic balance! Maximum flight fuel and course efficiency! Stand firm, stand fast in the faith. Do not deviate off course.
… Most of us admire people who have a stable character, a stable personality and stable convictions. I believe that ‘stability’ was one of the attributes that Jesus admired the most in John the Baptist. In Matthew chapter 11, Jesus speaks to the crowds concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? And He gave three possibilities. A reed shaken by the wind? Did you go out to see a person who is swayed by public opinion and blown about in the wind? What then did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Someone living in a king’s palace? What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Somebody who lives under the authority of the word of God. In those three options you have everybody in this room. Every one of us is one or other of those three descriptions. What is it that rules your life? Is it public opinion from the outside? Is it your own pleasures and passions on the inside? Or is it the word of God from above?
The two Books of Homilies [which are a gift to us all today and are beautifully being rediscovered in the Anglican Church] are valuable in a multiplicity of ways and show how Anglican doctrine shifted during the Reformation. These homilies were intended to raise the standards of preaching by offering model sermons covering particular doctrinal and pastoral themes. I strongly commend the Books of Homilies to you.
The “Homily on The Reading of Scripture” states that, ‘…as drink is pleasant to them that be dry, and meat to them that be hungry, so is the reading, hearing, searching, and studying of Holy Scripture to them that be desirous to know God or themselves, and to do his will.’
Stand firm, do not deviate. For when the Church deviates from the word of God the consequences are catastrophic!
On October 14, last year, I received a very early text message from our Director of Communications, the Rev. Marc Steele. The information Marc sent me was personally painful and the consequence for the church was, in that moment, unfathomable! My friend and confidant, bishop and former keynote speaker at this missions conference and synod had converted to the See of Peter, the Church of Rome.
After spending his entire adult life within the Anglican Communion—including thirty-seven years as an Anglican bishop, Michael Nazir-Ali was received into the Ordinariate of the Catholic Church at Our Lady of the Assumption and St. Gregory Church in London on October 31, last year.
In Michael’s own words, this was a ‘dramatic step’.
In a recent article, Michael wrote this, ‘One problem with the Anglican Communion was its lack of unity based in apostolic continuity. Each time an “agreement” was reached on important issues and accepted by the respective communions as consonant with what they believed, some part of the Anglican Communion would take unilateral action that cast doubt on the strength of the agreement.’
Michael wrote, I had often boasted that Anglicanism, although reformed, had by divine providence retained both the sacred deposit of faith and the sacred ministry.
He cites the apparent lack of authority, the ordination of women as priests and bishops, the ordination of individuals in active homosexual relationships, the breakdown of the discipline of marriage [especially amongst clergy and bishops] and a lack of clarity concerning personhood and the protections due to it at the earliest and latest stages of life as indicators which “epitomized a tendency within Anglicanism to capitulate to the culture rather than sound a prophetic voice within it.”
‘A tendency within Anglicanism to capitulate to the culture!’ That’s interesting!
One of the many reasons why I am so sensitive to wokeness and this pattern of capitulation within the Anglican Church is because I am, and many of you are, refugees from a church that lost her way when she began to succumb to appeals for compassion, tenderness and a capitulation to culture as the justification for dismantling the faith ‘once for all entrusted to the saints’.
By Derrick Brite — 2 years ago
Substitute LGBTQ+ with the words “white supremacy” or “pedophilia.” Does it still work? Of course not! To attempt to be a part of a culture or community that is directly opposed to nature and has at its root a fundamental misunderstanding of the work of the Holy Spirit is dangerous. At that point you are not merely a part of some kind of subculture, but diving deeper into the quicksand of heinous sin. As Thomas Watson so aptly quipped, “We pray, ‘Lead us not into temptation,’ but do we lead ourselves into temptation?
At the 2002 General Assembly, the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) adopted what is deemed as “good faith subscription.” This gives each presbytery the right to determine whether a candidate for gospel ministry has stated differences with the doctrinal standards of the PCA that are acceptable or not, so long as the differences do not “strike at the vitals” (BCO 21.4). As a result, it has become common practice for candidates to take two exceptions to the Westminster Standards: (1) recreation on the Lord’s Day and (2) what constitutes a violation of the Second Commandment. These are so common that it’s rare in many cases to see any pushback from the presbytery floor during an examination on these exceptions. Whether or not adopting this practice was the right decision by the Assembly is beyond the purpose or scope of this article. Like it or not, that ship has sailed.
However, with the advent of Revoice and Side B Christianity, it seems a new exception has come to our presbyteries, at least in practice—an exception to the teaching that some sins are more heinous than others. Westminster Shorter Catechism Q. 83 asks, “Are all transgressions of the law equally heinous?” I would venture to say that many evangelicals—and dare I say many Presbyterians—would answer with something like, “Yes! All sins are equal in the sight of God. We all need grace.” Obviously, we all need the grace of God. We are all justly deserving of damnation, even for the smallest of sins. But that’s not the answer to the question. Divines give the following answer: “Some sins, in themselves, and by reason of several aggravations, are more heinous in the sight of God than others.”
Expanding on this teaching, the Westminster Larger Catechism, Q. 151, gives numerous aggravations that make a sin more heinous. The list is extensive and includes many things worthy of note (e.g., sins on the Lord’s Day). Among those aggravations listed that make some sins more heinous are those against the Holy Spirit (including His witness and workings), those that harm the weaker brother, those that are of continuance, and those that are against the light of nature.
As the PCA affirms, homosexuality is condemned as a sin against nature in Romans 1. However, Side B theology states (at least in a loud majority) that sexuality is not something you choose but part of your overall personhood, or said another way, sexuality along with gender, nationality and ethnicity are all features that make up ones composite identity. This was the main point of contention at the 2019 PCA General Assembly as Greg Johnson took issue with Article 7 of the Nashville Statement, which denies that “adopting a homosexual or transgender self-conception is consistent with God’s holy purposes in creation.” Not only that, but according to some proponents of Side B theology, orientation and desires don’t (normally) change. Even if we were to grant this as the case, a proper Reformed understanding of concupiscence would lead us to see that this is a sin of constancy that denies the work of the Holy Spirit in sanctification, as we are essentially being told that sexuality is something that the Holy Spirit either can’t or won’t change.
 https://revoice.us/about/our-beliefs/statements-of-conviction/statement-on-sexual-ethics-and-christian-obedience/. See also Rosaria Butterfield’s quick and helpful definitions of both Side A and Side B:
 Note Greg Johnson’s speech on the floor of the 48th General Assembly: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NkWdMBQyVkc
By P. Jesse Rine — 2 weeks ago
Written by P. Jesse Rine |
Monday, November 27, 2023
Although the careerist may value the institution’s unique mission, its faithful pursuit is ultimately incidental to his primary motivation: ascending to the next rung on the professional ladder. Maintaining the distinctive character of Christian higher education and ensuring its enduring efficacy will require intentional, robust, and principled leadership that both understands and resists the mechanisms of isomorphic homogenization. If Christian colleges and universities are to continue the vital Gospel work of changing hearts and renewing minds, their leaders must eschew the temptation to play the coward, copycat, or careerist.
The soul of Christian higher education is its distinctive institutional mission: to pursue the implications of the Lordship of Christ over every academic field and discipline. This mission defines the Christian college’s purpose, which distinguishes it from secular peers and provides an organizing framework for institutional action. Given its central nature, it is little wonder why so much thought has been devoted to understanding the role of institutional mission within Christian colleges and universities. Scholarly treatments have ranged from profiling specific ecclesial models for higher education, to constructing typologies that span various theological traditions, to examining the negative effects of denominational disengagement. Yet common to all is a recognition that these vital organs of the church will flourish only insofar as their unique missions are intentionally maintained.
It is therefore disheartening to witness instances of mission drift within Christian higher education, for we know where this path leads: further compromise and eventual secularization. Perhaps most insidious are the forms of drift that appeal to conditions or standards within the industry at large to justify a departure from the college’s historic character. Although the details may differ across cases, the formula remains constant: Campus leaders point to a particular aspect of the college’s historic character as a rationale for moving the institution into better alignment with recent trends. For example, one institution reaffirms its Christian commitment to caring for all students by approving an official student club for sexual minorities. Another institution demonstrates its devotion to institutional excellence by appointing a vice president for diversity, equity, and inclusion to implement “best practices” for achieving racial justice on campus. A third institution expands the reach of its Christian witness by reducing its core requirements to attract greater numbers of prospective students. Whether compromising on sexual ethics, uncritically adopting secular approaches to race, or sacrificing curricular substance on the altar of the market, the institution has mutated even as its leaders declare its mission to be more vibrant than ever.
For those concerned with the continuance of authentically Christian higher education, it is imperative to understand the mechanisms that lead to this form of mission drift. To the outside observer, the above examples might appear to be separate, one-off occurrences of poor administrative decision-making. In actuality, these choices are united by a faulty view of leadership, as evidenced by the lack of integrity between the institution’s stated values and the behavior of its principal. This discontinuity betrays a troubling reality: The chief executive has conceptualized and operationalized leadership in ways that elevate deference to external entities above institutional self-determination.
The aforementioned approach is problematic because organizations operating within the same industry tend to become more alike over time as they respond to shared external pressures. This phenomenon is known as institutional isomorphism, and its effects can be seen within Christian higher education. Isomorphism is a natural and common occurrence across various industries, but it becomes corrosive when it pulls an organization away from its distinctive mission. College presidents who fall prey to the above character flaw—the tendency to subordinate the interests of their own institutions to the wishes of the wider academy—ultimately function as accelerants of mission drift because they go with the flow instead of resisting the homogenizing forces of isomorphism. Leaders who exhibit this trait regularly appear in one of three different small-souled forms, each corresponding to a particular mechanism of isomorphic change: Coward, Copycat, and Careerist.1
In their seminal work, “The Iron Cage Revisited: Institutional Isomorphism and Collective Rationality in Organizational Fields,” Paul DiMaggio and Walter Powell describe institutional isomorphism as “a constraining process that forces one unit in a population to resemble other units that face the same set of environmental conditions.”2 This constraining process occurs through three mechanisms, and each pushes Christian colleges and universities to become more like the rest of American higher education. The first is coercive isomorphism, which DiMaggio and Powell describe as “formal and informal pressures exerted on organizations by other organizations upon which they are dependent, and by cultural expectations in the society within which organizations function.”3 These pressures can “be felt as force, as persuasion, or as invitations to join in collusion.”4
Two primary sources of coercive isomorphism within the field of higher education are government regulation and institutional accreditation. Both exert coercive force, though the former is more direct while the latter is more indirect. Numerous government regulations influence the behavior of postsecondary institutions, yet the most consequential relate to eligibility requirements for participation in the federal student loan program. Christian colleges are roughly 70% tuition dependent on average, which means they rely upon student tuition and fees to provide 7 out of every 10 dollars for their annual operating budgets. Moreover, most Christian college attendees depend upon the federal student loan program to finance their education. As a result, changes to eligibility requirements, such as compliance with Title IX regulations that define traditional approaches to human sexuality as discriminatory, have the power to induce coercive isomorphism within Christian higher education.
Institutional accreditation, itself a requirement for participation in the Title IV federal student loan program, presents another, softer source of coercive isomorphism. While postsecondary accreditors are staffed by full-time officials who coordinate the activities of the association, the site visit teams that actually review institutional performance against the accreditor’s standards of quality are populated by administrators from its member colleges and universities. These administrators not only issue requirements to address areas of noncompliance, but they also share recommendations they believe would benefit the institution, and these recommendations often reflect the consensus of the wider field that includes but goes beyond Christian higher education.
On its own, coercive isomorphism has the potential to exert significant pressure on Christian colleges, and this potency can turn pernicious when faith-based organizations are led by cowards.