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JONAL ENTRY 1534 | WEDNESDAY, JULY 2 2014

Today's Scripture: . . . the first covenant had regulations for worship and an earthly sanctuary. For a tent was prepared, the outer one, in which were the lampstand and the table and the bread of the Presence; it is called the Holy Place. Behind the second curtain stood a tent called the Holy of Holies, having the golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant covered on all sides with gold, which contained a golden urn holding the manna, and Aaron's rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant; above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat. Of these things we cannot now speak in detail. These preparations having thus been made, the priests go continually into the outer tent, performing their ritual duties; but into the second only the high priest goes, and he but once a year, and not without taking blood which he offers for himself and for the errors of the people.

St. Paul's letter to the Hebrews 9:1-7,
from today's Orthodox lectionary readings.
See the homiletical thought below. 
«

Today's diary - life in Northern Ireland

The northernmost point on the mainland of Ireland is Malin Head, seen in the photo above, which I took while on an excursion with Michael Tinne last month. And if Irish history always surprises readers by revealing things they would not guess (like the facts that England's Calvinist "Lord Protector," Oliver Cromwell, is not favorably remembered by Northern Ireland's (Calvinist) Presbyterians, and that it was the Presbyterians, not the Catholics, who preserved the Irish language when it was in danger of being forgotten as a result of the hegemony of English on the island), Ireland's geography is no piece of cake, either, as this point is not in Northern Ireland but in the Republic of Ireland which people around here often refer to as "the south." That's because the six counties that make up the province of Northern Ireland are all easterly of this point, and here County Donegal, though part of the original nine-county region called Ulster, extends farther north than its eastern neighboring county, Londonderry. And Donegal is not part of the United Kingdom but of the Republic.

Last evening Jack Lamb and I went to a fundraiser on behalf of Joy Ryan, a local woman planning to make a missionary journey to Malawi in Africa this fall. The event was a screening of the movie, Mandela, the biopic about the first African president of South Africa, elected at the end of apartheid there, and which played at most commercial cinemas earlier this year.

The special screening was at a theater unlike any I had ever seen before, which is seen in the photo at right (taken around 10 p.m., so in somewhat subdued light; I left the tree, which is just a normal-sized tree, in the photo for size comparison). It is a tiny auditorium, about the size of a two-car garage, on a rural site two miles from Comber, a small town south of Belfast. But despite it's tiny size, the theater is outfitted as a "movie palace," with theater seats (probably about 100) on a slanted floor and a wide screen which, though smaller than normal screens, fills the width of the building's back wall, minus space for the curtain, which is electrically controlled like those in big theaters. You can read the story of the Tudor here if you find this as fascinating as I do (scroll down till you see the photo of the Tudor).

Tonight we plan to sit in on a catechism class at St. Ignatius Church. «

In the news
Links to articles on current issues—news and opinion that may signify how the cultural winds are blowing. Note that most 'news reports' are not 'objective' and if some are 'neutral' it's because the writers and editors are disinterested (could care less about the topic). Neither are 'news reports,' in general, highly accurate or unbiased; try to discern the bias of any report's source; always read aware and at your own risk.

First Things article traces the decades-long history of 'mainstreaming homosexuality'

Bill Clinton accused of false witness on diplomat deaths in Bush years

Six more religious groups win emergency relief from HHS mandate

ISIS map of the world shows 'Caliphate's' plan for global domination

Priest disputes claim that Orthodox worship is Old Testament-based

Israeli military searchers find bodies of slain teenagers inside Israel

Books for the young should deal with life's dark as well as light side

Rand Paul blames Maliki, not Obama, for current crisis in Iraq

Academic calls 'Christian university' oxymoronic, wants to end accreditation

Christian worldview
(This department alternates with Writing stuff)

Quotable passages are getting scarcer as we close in on the end of Carl Trueman's little book, Republocrat, Confessions of a Liberal Conservative, so I'm hoping this is the second-to-last installment in this survey, as Chapter 5 is the book's second-to-last.

Trueman begins the chapter with a defense of something I came to think of as a problem with the Calvinist approach to theology and even of salvation, what he calls "theological precision," which I think of as "doctrinalism." Seen in its most positive light, the Reformed (or hyper-Calvinist, some call it) approach is so rational that it gives many with a certain kind of mentality the impression it is unassailable. This supposed unassailability gives some assurance that it has to be true and, in the minds of those so convinced, this is the essence of "true religion," so they embrace it enthusiastically.

During my few years in the tiny Orthodox Presbyterian denomination in which Trueman is a minister as well as, now, its best-known theologian, most of its true believers (for as in all groups, there are always some who were born into it and take it for granted, or married into it and don't have the energy or mentality to think it through) struck me as super-rationalists. Catholicism, in its scholastic expressions, also has many super-rationalists, but that is a small movement within the huge superstructure of Catholicism, so it can be ignored, and is, by those with other approaches to studying and finding what matters in the catholic faith.

Almost all "thinking" Christians, making an apologetic case for believing, find C.S. Lewis one of their strongest allies, because, 1. he was without peer, at least on the "popular" level of apologetic theology, and, 2. he is probably the best-known Christian writer of the twentieth century and therefore almost everyone in the audience will nod in recognition on his mention. But Trueman doesn't mention Lewis in this work, nor do I remember Francis Schaeffer, who was the top thinker in another Presbyterian group that had much overlap with Trueman's both in history and doctrine, ever doing so, though I used Schaeffer's books and tapes as a mainstay—the core curriculum, as it were—of my campus ministry from 1969 to 1983. Though they probably have other reasons they would give for seldom mentioning Lewis, I think the reason is that he was not a Calvinist nor, like them, neither was he a "separatist" in the sense that he did not fight as Trueman and Schaeffer do to persuade their hearers that their denomination is the truest if not the only true one, no matter how small it might be (Schaeffer's denomination has, since his death, merged into a much larger one so this is not as true of the Presbyterian Church of America as it was when he was the most famous representative of the Reformed Presbyterian Church Evangelical Synod).

It may be ironic, however, since Trueman is writing about conservative politics in American evangelicalism, that he never mentions Francis Schaeffer, either, as it was Schaeffer more than any other individual who persuaded American evangelicals to consider abortion the defining issue in American politics and, because of that, he became a staunch ally to the old Silent Majority and Christian Coalition that became famous in the national politics of the mid-'70s and the 1980s as the "Christian right." But Trueman represents a new generation and it may be he has never been directly influenced by Schaeffer.

In its negative light, Calvinist doctrinalism has long impressed me as teaching, at least by implication if not intention, that right doctrine, rather than position in Christ, is what saves Christians or is the basis of their faith. Lewis was not so "precise," and the Orthodoxy that I've embraced under Lewis's influence is content to leave large segments of church teaching and practice under the umbrella of "mystery" without feeling impelled to spell out every nuance of how something is true or how it came to be so (for example, Orthodox, like Catholics, believe the wine and bread of the eucharist are the true blood and flesh of Jesus Christ, but unlike Catholics refuse to label this "transubstantiation" or even to agree that this "fact" has to be explained; it's a mystery. How God could be a being bigger than the whole universe and yet everywhere at every time simultaneously is also a mystery that we don't have to explain because obviously, it's beyond the capacity of human reason.

And all of that is just the introduction to Chapter 5, so I'll leave it here, admitting that I'll have to have at least two more installments after this one. «

Today's video

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Chuckle

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Today's quotes

— Posted on G+ by Steven Allard «

Our wickedness shall not overpower the unspeakable goodness and mercy of God; our dullness shall not overpower God's wisdom, nor our infirmity God's omnipotence.

— St. John of Kronstadt «

Since it is so likely that children will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage.

— C.S. Lewis «

Homiletical thought: In today's epistle passage, Paul reaffirms the testimony of Moses's book of Leviticus that God wants His worshipers to worship Him appropriately and not in an ad hoc, make-it-up-as-you-go-along way. Everything in the Old Testament—the first covenant—pointed directly to the coming of the Savior-Son or supported such pointers, so that much of the worship of the Old Testament Temple is no longer appropriate, having been fulfilled in Him. But things like the original God-given prayer book, the Psalms, are still central to God's praise and His teaching us, and the new altar is a place not of bloody sacrifice but of remembering and entering into the worship of heaven in breaking and eating and drinking the body and blood of our Founder. If censing the old-style altar and its utensils was appropriate, why would we delete censing in the new worship? Our God is the same yesterday, today, forever, and ever amen. «

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§ I have now uploaded over 2,700 photos and videos, mostly from my current visit to Northern Ireland, but also including several hundred photos and videos from my summer in Pennsylvania (2012), and some photos of the family, on my Flickr site. Most of these are now organized by sets. Click here for the Flicker site.

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Feedback is always welcome.

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Please pray for my mission to Northern Ireland. You can read my background overview of this undertaking here. My residence/postal address is The Loom, 227 Crumlin Road, Belfast, Northern Ireland BT14 7DY, UK. Mobile, international: 44 7455 980890; from within the UK, 07455 980890.

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This blog is just
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between an American lay missionary in Northern Ireland, his friends there, his friends in his home parish in Silicon Valley, California, and his friends in his native coalfields of Western Pennsylvania, and any others interested. When time for deeper reflection is lacking, this may consist mainly of reposts of things from online networks that seem to resonate with members of his circles.

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Jon Kennedy's recent book,
C.S. Lewis Themes and Threads, is available for purchase at $2.99. Purchase supports the author'
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C.S. Lewis Society of Northern Ireland

Blogs I follow:

Glory to God for All Things

Dock Cafe - Life in the Titanic Quarter

Sitting around the campfire with Jim

The Belfast Lord Mayor's blog


Other books by Jon





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