George Crowder examines the issue of self-identity and finds the answer in Christ.
What is the true self? Is the ‘real me’ the mostly secret thought-life of my consciousness; the person no-one ever really sees? Or is the ‘real me’ the person I am in the eyes of others; the person I may well not be aware that I really am? Is the ‘real me’ the set of aspirations I have for myself; the person I really want to be? Or is the ‘real me’ a result of my social background and genetic make-up; the person I really can’t help being?
This is an important question because an emphasis on self-identity undergirds many current social campaigns, political exchanges, academic debates and cultural projects. By dint of this, it is notable how quickly almost any issue can become personal (a point Carl Trueman makes in his recent book, The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self). This dynamic finds a parallel in the Bible, where every point of doctrine has an individual life-application, and every story forms part of our shared faith-narrative.
Thus, it is particularly pertinent to consider what scripture has to say about the identity of the self: the self that is drawn into the story of salvation, the self that is steered by the teaching of the gospel.
In the New Testament, Paul the apostle speaks about two selves – the old self and the new self.
Ros Clarke reviews this podcast about terminal illness, death and bereavement.
“In my late thirties I was diagnosed with incurable cancer. It will kill me, if nothing else does first.”
Todd Billings, author of “The End of the Christian Life” and host of the podcast of the same name, speaks with all the authority of experience about suffering, death, mourning and hope. In each episode Todd speaks with someone who has a different perspective on this subject including scholars, pastors, funeral directors, and those who suffer themselves with incurable illness. The podcast carefully unpacks some of the false promises that churches explicitly or implicitly teach, and the ways we could all be better prepared to face the end of our lives.
For me, 2020 was marked by grief and loss as friends and family members died one after another and I was privileged to witness extraordinary faith as they faced the end of this life with confident hope for the next. This podcast was recommended to me by a friend who has been in palliative care for several months. She knows more than most of us about facing the realities of death head on.
The podcast has much to offer pastors for counselling Christians and their loved ones through terminal illness, death and bereavement, as well as to inform their regular preaching. For thoughtful believers struggling with their own suffering, it may also be appropriate, though I would be cautious about recommending it to those in the emotional maelstrom of recent diagnosis or in the immediate aftermath of bereavement.
Church Society are holding a webinar for ministers in turnaround or revitalisation parishes in London, the South East and East Anglia.
Are you a Bible-centred, orthodox minister of a Church of England parish… who’s leading a church not used to a Bible-centred ministry…?
Today, many enthusiastic and gifted evangelicals are being appointed to parishes that have little or no experience of a Bible-centred ministry, or at least not for some while. Such parishes are often referred to as ‘Revitalisation’ or ‘Turnaround’ parishes. This is an exciting and in many ways immensely challenging option - just in case you haven’t noticed!
But it can feel lonely and isolated. Meetings and conferences with your Evangelical peers can seem very remote to your current experience. Your questions, worries, issues and fears are often very different to theirs. Where can you go to find some long-term experience of the issues and opportunities, the highs and the lows? And godly wisdom as you grapple with them? Where can you meet, and build friendships with, others doing what you’re doing in London, the South East and East Anglia?
Answer. The Church Society ‘Turnaround’ Minister’s Webinar!
The latest edition of The Global Anglican is now on its way to subscribers.
This edition of The Global Anglican includes an important piece from Eliud Wabukala, Archbishop of Kenya, on the biblical imperatives to consider with respect to tackling corruption. Archbishop Wabukala is the Chair of the Kenyan National Anti Corruption Campaign Steering Committee, and has served on the committee for a number of years. As part of our ongoing commitment to making the journal truly global in its outlook, we are delighted to publish on such an important subject from someone with such experience and wisdom as Archbishop Wabukala.
Peter Jensen’s editorial opens the journal, as always, this time reflecting on the power of words: God’s good, true, pure word, and our self-serving words which can destroy. He concludes:
Bad doctrine, which is a travesty of the gospel, is doing much harm. But just as harmful is the careless or self-serving language by which other believers are traduced either secretly or publicly.
To repel Satan in his assault on you, is to put on the whole armour of God, especially to buckle on the belt of truth (Eph 6:14). And it is to commit yourself to pure speech:
Not the speech which follows the world in foul language and in blasphemy. So frequent has this become in entertainment, let alone the marketplace, that it is fatally easy to allow our minds to become infested with obscenities and to begin to use them ourselves.
Open letter to our members concerning Church Society's response to the recent 31:8 Lessons Learned Review
Church Society exists to be a positive force for good within the Church of England through its primary objectives of publishing, patronage and politics, undertaken in the context of prayer and partnership. We are a fellowship, comprised of our members and associates, united with the aim of ‘contending to reform and renew the Church of England in biblical faith.’
It is our privilege to work with other like-minded Christians to make that happen, but we are painfully aware of recent revelations of abuse from within the conservative evangelical world. These reports have been truly shocking, showing not just how many people have been terribly abused, but also how a climate of fear contributed to the truth being concealed and victims unwilling to come forward. Our first concern has to be to care for all those who have been victims of abuse. They need all the support, love and professional care that is necessary.
All of us are much more aware than previous generations of how human sinfulness relates not just to individuals, but is also found in structures and organisations, through historical injustices, unrepresentative leadership, voices being marginalised and power being exercised in a coercive, manipulative and unchecked way. We should also be at the forefront of working to ensure that such cases of abuses can never happen again within our conservative evangelical circles both by examining our internal structures and leadership but also co-operating with and seeking to reform the Church of England’s safeguarding structures and processes.
Church Society Council understands the pressing need to undertake a sincere and full review of its leadership and governance at every level and to ask the difficult questions of how power and authority is exercised in our organisation. As Christians who follow the One who is ‘full of grace and truth’ (John 1:14), we must be absolutely committed to being transparent and accountable in all our dealings, bringing the truth to light in our particular church culture. That may involve some uncomfortable questioning and soul-searching, but as a Christian organisation we recognise that this is the time to prayerfully ask not just what we are doing, but how we are going about that task. We should never be afraid of corporately repenting of our faults and rectifying them wherever that is possible.
George Crowder encourages us to remember that when we are weak, then we are strong in God's sufficient grace.
There are some things we wish would just go away: things which hold us back, things which cause us frustration, things which drain our energy. We can all think of an example: that infuriating, difficult person, or that stubborn, debilitating health problem, or that persistent predisposition to a particular besetting sin. How we could flourish if rid this troublesome imposition, this burdensome encumbrance.
Yet Paul, on reflection, boasts of his “thorn in the flesh,” 2 Corinthians 12:9. Three times he begged God to remove it, and three times God refused. Few matters in the New Testament have attracted so much speculation as the nature of Paul’s complaint; whether physical, psychological or spiritual. But in the end, it is irrelevant. The point is that he rejoices in the thing that made him feel weakest.
Lee Gatiss expounds the lectionary readings for Easter Sunday.
The lectionary readings for Easter Sunday of course focus on the good news of the glorious resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. The readings are Isaiah 25:6-9, 1 Corinthians 15:1-11, and Mark 16:1-8.
The latest edition of Crossway is now on its way to members and subscribers
In a recent edition of Crossway, we looked at the issues of race and racism in the Church of England today. A related and equally serious problem is the inbuilt class prejudice in the church, as much as it is in wider society. In this Crossway, therefore, you will find articles which examine some of the ways that the structures and systems of the Church of England work to exclude working class people. As Gary Jenkins says, “This is a scandal which, quite scandalously, does not scandalise us.”
Gary’s article looks at some of the ways the official vision of the Church of England, its synods and systems have overlooked and ignored working class people, and offers some suggestions about how this might be overcome. Mark Wilson draws on his own experiences of growing up in a UPA parish and now ministering in one - and how the selection and training processes worked against this kind of ministry. Andy Greenhough describes the coming changes to the process of selection for ordination, and how they may be useful in widening access to those from different educational backgrounds.
In my article, I draw out some lessons for the contemporary church from the ministry of J.C.Ryle, preaching to exhausted and uneducated agricultural labourers, and strategising for a church to reach the working men and women in the vast new city of Liverpool. Andy and Amanda Brewerton write about their experiences of ministry in an ex-mining village in Yorkshire, seeing both challenges and opportunities in this working class community.
The issue concludes on a different note, with a piece from Lee Gatiss with some comforting truths and timely warnings from Charles Simeon, to help us through periods of trial. Many of us will have experienced such ‘dark dispensations’ in recent months, and we hope that you will draw comfort and encouragement from this.
Lee Gatiss preaches the final part of the final Homily in our Lenten series, against contention and brawling.
You heard in the last part of this sermon against strife and brawling how we may answer those who maintain their argumentativeness in contentions, and those who want to avenge with words such evils as other people do to them. And finally, you heard how we may, according to God’s will, order ourselves, and what we should think about others when we are provoked to contention and strife with railing words. Now, to proceed on this subject, you need to know the right way to counter and overcome our adversary and enemy.
Answering a fool This is the best way to counter an adversary: so to live, that all those who know your honesty may bear witness that you are slandered unworthily. If the fault for which you are slandered is such that for the defence of your honesty you need to make an answer, answer quietly and softly in this fashion, that those faults are laid against you falsely. For it is true what the wise man says: “A soft answer turns away anger, and a hard and sharp answer stirs up rage and fury”( Proverbs 15:1). The sharp answer of Nabal provoked David to cruel vengeance; but the gentle words of Abigail quenched the fire that was all in a flame (1 Samuel 25:9-35). And a special remedy against malicious tongues is to arm ourselves with patience, meekness, and silence; lest with multiplying words with the enemy, we are made as evil as them.
But those who cannot bear one evil word, perhaps, for their own excuse will cite what is written: “The one who despises his good name is cruel.” Also we read, “Answer a fool according to their foolishness” (Proverbs 26:5). And our Lord Jesus held his peace at certain evil sayings, but to others he answered diligently. He heard people call him a Samaritan, a carpenters son, a wine drinker, and he held his peace (John 19:9; Matthew 11:19, 13:55); but when he heard them say, “You have a devil within you” (John 8:48), he answered to that earnestly.
It is indeed true that there is a time when it is appropriate to “answer a fool according to their foolishness, lest they should seem in their own conceit to be wise” (Proverbs 26:5). And sometimes it is not profitable to “answer a fool according to their foolishness”, lest the wise person be made to look like the fool (Proverbs 26:4). When our infamy (or the reproach that is done to us) is joined with the peril of many, then it is necessary in answering to be quick and ready. For we read that many holy people of good zeal have sharply and fiercely spoken and answered tyrants and evil people. These sharp words came not from anger, rancour, or malice, or desire for vengeance, but from a fervent desire to bring them to the true knowledge of God, and from ungodly living, by an earnest and sharp rebuke and reprimand.
Lee Gatiss preaches Part 2 of the Homily against Contention (1547), as our Lenten series on the Anglican Homilies nears its end.
It has been declared to you in this sermon against strife and brawling what great misfortune comes from it, and especially from contention in matters of religion. It has been declared how, when no one will give way to another, there is no end of contention and discord, and that unity which God requires of Christians is utterly neglected and broken. And I have said that this contention consists chiefly in two things: picking quarrels, and making argumentative answers.
Now you shall hear St. Paul’s words: “Dearly beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written ‘Vengeance is mine, I will revenge,’ says the Lord. Therefore, if your enemy is hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them drink. Do not be overcome with evil, but overcome evil with goodness” (Romans 12:19-21; Deuteronomy 32:35). All these are the words of St. Paul. But those who are so puffed up and think so much of themselves that they cannot abide so much as one critical word to be spoken about them will perhaps say, “If I am reviled, shall I stand by like a goose or a fool, with my hand over my mouth? Shall I be such an idiot and simpleton to suffer everyone to speak about me whatever they like, to rant as they like, to spew out all their venom against me as they please? Is it not more fitting that the one who speaks such evil should be answered accordingly? If I use such gentleness and softness, I shall both increase my enemy’s argumentativeness, and provoke others to do the same.” Such are the reasons people give in defence of their impatience.
Is there a hope of remedying argumentativeness, by answering argumentative people with argumentativeness? If so, it would be less offensive to answer in that way, not from anger or malice but only in order to reform the one who is so argumentative or malicious. But if one cannot amend someone else’s fault, or cannot amend it without a fault of your own, it is better that one should perish than two. If you cannot quiet them with gentle words, at least do not follow them in wicked and uncharitable words. If you can pacify them with suffering, then suffer; and if not, it is better to suffer evil than to do evil, to speak well than to speak evil. For to speak well against evil comes from the Spirit of God, but to render evil for evil comes from the opposite spirit.
The one who cannot temper or rule their own anger is weak and feeble, and not a strong person. For true strength is to overcome wrath and to think little of injury and other people’s foolishness. Besides, when one thinks little of the wrong done to them by their enemy, everyone perceives that it was spoken or done without cause; whereas, on the contrary, the one who fumes and is inflamed at such things helps the cause of their adversary by creating suspicion that the thing they allege is actually true. And so in trying to avenge evil, we show ourselves to be evil; and while we want to punish another person’s folly, we double and enhance our own folly.