“What a piece of work is man! How noble in reason, how infinite in faculty! In form and moving, how express and admirable! In action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a god!” These words form Hamlet’s reflections in Shakespeare’s play of the same name. He speaks admiringly at first but then he despairs of the human condition.
In a recent article, ‘The Tyranny of Opinion’ (The Weekend Australian. January 18-19), John Carroll, professor emeritus of sociology, La Trobe University, Australia, comments on identity politics where ‘the new wars are over opinion’. ‘Belief has been separated from act,’ he says.
‘Human identity without firm and distinct shape,’ Carroll comments, ‘is condemned to leading a haphazard existence, motivated by profane pleasure and the pursuit of power. Pleasures diminish and power is capricious. A vacancy of belief drives some to seek tranquilizers and intoxicants; others to seek militant secular faiths…’
What is alarming, he points out, is that ‘professional orders that are otherwise sober, serious, hard-working and methodical in their practical lives are turning in their leisure, to quasi-religious venting, dark paranoid fantasy and wide-eyed righteous indignation.’
‘As people spend more of their leisure time on smart-phones and less reading books, they develop habits in themselves ill-suited to measured reflection… It is not surprising then,’ he notes, ‘that belief has become separated from act. Others are judged by what they believe, not by what they do.’
How can God’s people respond to the world of change around us? This is the central theme of the April Anglican Connection Conference. (See belowfor registration details.) Change is all around us yet so many of God’s people are ill-equipped for an effective response.
A starting point. In Colossians 1:25 the Apostle Paul tells us that he had been called by God to be a minister to serve God’s people, and that he did this by making the word of God fully known.
God’s plan to reveal himself to men and women whom he had created in his image (Genesis 1:27) was not through miracles, nor social justice, but through words – spoken and written. And Paul saw that it was his task to communicate that message to the world, faithfully and fully.
In a word, Paul saw that he had a duty to preach and teach the Scriptures. This is important. It tells us that we don’t achieve a deeper insight into the Christian faith by having some mystical experience of Christ. We need to know the Word of God better so that we can grow closer to Christ, so that we be better equipped to live for him in a world where men and women constantly show their good side but also their dark side.
So the task of preachers is not to get people to see their ideas but rather to see God. Preachers need to open up the Bible so that everyone who hears them can see why they are saying what they are saying. As Paul says here, the first task of ministry is to make the Word of God fully known.
Only when we know God who has revealed himself through the Bible will we understand God’s plan for every man and woman and young person who turns to him in repentance and in faith. In Romans 8:14-17 we read: For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is the very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ…
CS Lewis in Mere Christianity, put it this way: ‘If we let Him – for we can prevent Him, if we choose – He will make the feeblest and filthiest of us into a god or goddess, a dazzling, radiant, immortal creature, pulsating all through with such energy and joy and wisdom and love as we cannot now imagine, a bright stainless mirror which reflects back to God perfectly (though, of course, on a smaller scale) His own boundless power and delight and goodness. The process will be long and in parts very painful; but that is what we are in for. Nothing less.’
The Anglican Connection is not just for Anglicans. It is a network that is committed to drawing from the biblical, theological and liturgical riches of the 16th century Reformation for the benefit of our 21st century mission.
- Dr. HF (Fritz) Schaefer (Graham Perdue Professor, Computational Quantum Chemistry, University of Georgia; one of the world’s eminent quantum chemists);
- Dr. John Lennox (emeritus Professor of Mathematics, Oxford University);
- Dr. Liam Goligher (Senior Minister Tenth Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia, PA);
- Richard Borgonon (In the Lloyds insurance market for 45 years. With William Taylor (St Helen’s Bishopsgate, London) he developed and promotes the ministry, ‘Word One-to-One’);
- Keith Getty (Director, hymn-writer, lead pianist, Getty Music);
- Dr. Felix Orji, (Bishop of Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA) West);
- Jason Harris (Senior Minister, Central Church, Park Avenue, New York City);
- Andrew Pearson (Dean & Rector, Cathedral Church of the Advent, Birmingham, AL)
- Dr. Henry Jansma, Rector of All Souls Church, Cherry Hill, NJ, Canon Theologian, The Anglican Diocese of the Living Word.