Utterly Unsurprising, And Also True of Most American Christians of Every Variety

The Telegraph informs us

The majority of Church of England Christians don’t read the Bible, the church’s own polling has revealed.  Figures show that 60 per cent of self-declared followers of the Church admit they never read the Bible, and 36 per cent say they never attend church. One in three said they never pray.  The figures produced by ComRes, and commissioned by the Church, show that many of those who claim to be Christian don’t actually take part in many of the activities which are normally associated with the faith.

More than half of all those who identified as Christian across all denominations admitted they never read the Bible – and one in three said they never attend church. 

While 51 per cent of those who took part in the survey said they were Christian, just six per cent of those polled read the Bible, prayed and attended Church at least once a week.  Those who said they were followers of the Church of England were the least observant.  Rachel Jordan, the Church of England’s National Mission and Evangelism adviser, said the survey had been commissioned to give it “a real sense of the scale of the task ahead”.

She said: “There are lots of surveys out there which measure how many people nominally identify as Christians. “But we, as a group of leaders across denominations committed to evangelism, wanted to devise a measure which shows us who the most committed people are – those who themselves might be willing to take on the task of spreading the good news of Jesus in his country.

“So we’ve been tough in our definition, there was no point being woolly, that isn’t helpful to us for the task of evangelism.” Ms Jordan added: “We are really happy when people in this country chose to affiliate with us, identifying as both Christian and  Church of England even if in practice they don’t always choose to join in our churches. “But this does show that we need to do more to connect with those people and explore ways to draw them them into the wider church community.” The figures followed data released earlier this month from the British Social Attitudes survey which revealed that just 15 per cent of the population were Church of England Christians. 

Bishops greeted that figure with optimism, saying that it simply showed that more non-believers were willing to be honest and admit they had no faith, rather than claiming to be Church of England.

Same here. CINO.  [Christians in name only].

Give Us a King: Saul and the Ungodly Commitments of Contemporary Religious Politics

Well said. The way that ‘Evangelicals’ have panted after a ‘King’ of their own making has been a spectacle of the worst kind.

WIT

A few days ago, I decided I would read the biblical story about how Saul was chosen to become king of Israel. It seemed fitting to revisit this text because of the way that it dramatizes the tension between the political and the theological, something which has surely been at the forefront of all of our minds these days. In much of our online commentary, we tend not to exert too much mental effort thinking about politics and theology more theoretically. I’m a firm believer that story and narrative can inspire us to think in this manner, even if it does not supply us with the cogent, refined, clear-cut propositions that “standard” theory usually prefers. It may be that popular digital forums are not the ideal space to leisurely meander through the wilderness of theoretical abstractions, or perhaps it’s because abstract reflection is perceived to be at odds with the…

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That One Time a Girl’s Room Was So Filthy Her Parents Called Animal Control About a Lizard, and it was Just a Sock…

You can’t make this stuff up.  And you wouldn’t want to.

RSPCA officers who were called to rescue a lizard from under a bed discovered the reptile was actually a dirty sock – and advised the teenage girl to tidy her room.  The animal charity was called to a house by a “terrified” family, who thought a dangerous creature had got into their teenage daughter’s bedroom.  But when animal collection officers arrived at the property in Coventry at 6.40pm last Friday, they were left baffled to discover the “intruder” was a pink stripy sock.

You know you’re nasty when you can’t tell a lizard from your disgusting sock.

An RSPCA spokeswoman said: “It was definitely one of our more unusual call-outs. The family called us in a bit of a panic, they were terrified a lizard had got into their house.

“It was obviously dark in the room and I think fear just set in. But they said it had been there for about a week and hadn’t moved in that time. “Our animal collection officer approached with caution, as we would do with any reptile, not knowing whether it was a dangerous breed or not. “When she found out it was a pink stripy sock, the family were mortified. Vic said she couldn’t stop laughing once she got back into the car and I think the family eventually saw the funny side too.  “The sock had obviously been there quite a while. It was a typical teenager’s bedroom, I suppose.”

No.  It isn’t.  You’re.  Just.  Nasty.

In a Horrible Twist of Fate, Sarcasm Will Be Read as Authentic History: David’s Essential Oils Discovered…

How long before BAR carries this story from the Bee as historical proof of the historical David?  You know it will.  It isn’t a matter of if, but when…

Dr. Gary Arbino, Professor of Old Testament at the Gateway Seminary in southern California and world-renowned biblical archaeologist claims to have unearthed King David’s essential oils collection, the scholar announced Thursday.

The 3,000-year-old repository of oils was preserved from decay in a cave recently discovered by roaming bedouin shepherds in the Judaean desert. This archaeological find, rivaling that of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1946, confirms claims that these oils originate from ancient religious rites and rituals.

At a press conference devoted to the discovery, Arbino noted that these oils will help scholars interpret the Scriptures in a new light: “Evidently these oils are much more essential than we initially believed—we now consider King David’s statement ‘You anoint my head with oil’ in Psalm 23 to be a reference to doTERRA’s CitrusBliss Invigorating Blend.”

Others have been quick to add their support for Arbino’s interpretation. “It makes perfect sense,” one press conference attendee confirmed, “David was a tortured soul. He could have used more Serenity, and less Passion, if you know what I mean.”

In related news, sales of essential oils have more than doubled since the announcement. According to one doTERRA representative, supply for doTERRA’s Passion Inspiring Blend and Serenity Restful Blend will not soon match current demand.

OK BAR, we’re waiting… ‘Proof of David found in the Desert’… come on with it…

#HolyCrossDay

Today is ‘Holy Cross Day’ across the globe.  It’s the day commemorating the ‘discovery’ of the ‘true cross’ by Helen in her little trip to the ‘Holy Land’…

So many bits of the ‘true cross’ were scattered across Europe that in the day of Calvin, in France, they were carried in processions and venerated by the faithful and treated with contempt by Calvin himself –

‘Here comes the true cross!’ Again there was a rushing and shouting, citizens and strangers crushing one another.—‘It is not the only one,’ said the reformer, ‘there is no petty town or paltry church where they do not show you pieces; and if all were collected together, there would be a load for a great barge, and three hundred men could not carry it.’

His biographer goes on to remark more fully

In 1544 he published a little treatise which he calls “An Admonition,” showing the advantages which Christendom might derive from an Inventory of Relics. It is one of his most popular productions and affords unlimited range for his powers of irony and sarcasm.

He begins by saying it would be a good thing to catalogue all the relics which are said to exist in Italy, France, Germany, Spain, and other countries, and he suggests that as the monks have very little to do they might employ their time usefully in making such a catalogue. He himself has no complete knowledge, but he is aware that if all the relics throughout Christendom were catalogued, it would be seen that every apostle had four bodies at least, and every saint two or three. The relics of Christ are very numerous.

Besides the teeth and hair, the monks of Charrox give out that they have the piece of skin cut off at His circumcision. His natural blood is shown at a hundred places, sometimes in drops and sometimes in goblets-full. In Rome there is the manger in which He was laid at His birth, the linen in which He was swaddled, His cradle, and His shirt, and the altar on which He was presented in the temple. Elsewhere may be seen the waterpots of Cana, the wine with which they were filled, the bread used at the Last Supper, the dish in which the Paschal Lamb was placed, the knife with which it was cut up and the towel used to wipe the disciples’ feet. No less than fourteen nails are shown as the nails used in the crucifixion. What remains of the crown of thorns would make a substantial hedge, and what remains of the true cross would fill a ship.

The purple robe in which Christ was exhibited to the people is shown at two places. Relics of the saints are even more numerous. There are the milk of the Virgin Mary, the shoes of Joseph, the sword with which the Baptist was beheaded, and so on. Anna, mother of the Virgin, has one of her bodies at Apte in Provence, and another in the Church of St. Mary Insulan at Lyons. Besides, she has one of her hands at Treves, another at Turin, and a third at a town in Thuringia which takes its name from it. Lazarus likewise has three bodies, one at Marseilles, another at Austum, and a third at Avallon.

The entire body of Petronilla, St. Peter’s daughter, lies in the church at Rome dedicated to her father, but there are some separate remains in the Church of St. Barbara, and there is another of her bodies in the possession of the people of La Maine. It is alleged to cure fevers. What evidence can be produced to show which if any of these relics is genuine? At present you may be worshipping the bones of a horse or a dog when you believe that you are worshipping those of a saint. Nor can the ring and comb and girdle of the Virgin Mary be revered without the risk of discovering that the articles in question were really some part of the dress of a strumpet. For those who profess the name of Christ the best thing is to abolish the heathenish custom altogether as a thing that leads to idolatry and that is offensive to God.*

The absurdity of relic adoration is plain for all to see if they but have one good eye.

________________
*Hugh Y. Reyburn, John Calvin: His Life, Letters, and Work (London; New York; Toronto: Hodder and Stoughton, 1914), 212–213.

Women and Lust

The author of the little gem titled ‘Women and Lust‘ sent a copy for review and I have to say, I think it’s one of the most important practical little booklets I’ve seen in many a year.  It discusses a topic seldom addressed in the context of the Church.  Indeed, it’s something I never have, and probably never will talk about specifically- the subject of women and lust.

We’re all familiar with the fact that men have a problem with lusting.  Jesus talked about it quite openly and all of us know the danger of lust and all its implications in modern life, in reference to men.  But women are hardly ever spoken to about the same issue.  Sarah’s book fixes that.

To be sure, I am not a woman.  But I can nonetheless heartily recommend this tractate to women.  Sarah writes in an engaging style and illustrates the issue in a plainspoken, direct, folksy, down to earth way.  She relates the stories of women who suffer the problem of lust, the truth that it is a common problem among women, the biblical truth that sex is a gift of God and not a curse, that lust is not the unforgivable sin (my term, not hers), and biblical examples of the power of love to overcome sin in our lives no matter what it is.  She even cites John Calvin!

The only thing wrong with this little tome is that Sarah doesn’t cite Zwingli.  Other than that, it’s gloriously done and immensely insightful and utterly helpful.  I heartily commend it to the Christian women of the world.  I’m naming it my ‘book of the week’.

I can’t wait to see what she writes next.  She’s far better and far more theologically astute than the likes of Rachel Held-Evans and Nadia Bolz-Weber.   So, Sarah, we’re waiting quite eagerly for your next book.

The Problem with Disaster Relief Fundraising

This is always the issue with fund raising for disaster relief. Who actually GETS the money, when, and how?  Those questions are seldom asked, and honestly, if you don’t know the answer before you give, you could well be throwing your well intentioned money away.

If you’re one of thousands of Harvey-ravaged Houstonians who could use a handout from Houston Texan J.J. Watt’s hurricane relief fund, you’re going to have to wait a little longer. While the J.J. Watt Foundation raised a mindblowing $33 million in two weeks, a foundation spokesperson said there’s currently no long-term plan in place for how the money will be spent.

So it will be, what, sitting in some sort of account? Doubtless earning interest. But what’s to become of it all?

Let’s face it: most people in Houston (and elsewhere) love Watt, so it wasn’t much of a surprise when his initial goal of $200,000 was quickly surpassed. But his foundation, established in 2011, is a relatively modest outfit: According to IRS filings, the foundation is used to overseeing about $1.4 million a year, which goes to after-school programs primarily in Texas and in Watt’s home state of Wisconsin. The sudden infusion of such a large amount of money is far more than the nonprofit is used to handling.

Watt’s has been one of the most successful fundraising efforts in Harvey’s wake, and the All-Pro defensive end has rightly received accolades for wanting to help his community. But when the Houston Press asked how people could apply for funds, or how the funds would be used, we couldn’t get a clear response.

Again, in my opinion, the best way to give in times of disaster is through Baptist Disaster Relief. Your money goes directly to food and shelter and there are no overhead costs as is the case with the Red Cross.

Dale Martin on Ancient, Biblical, and Modern Families

What? When did Taylor start blogging? Why hasn’t he ever appeared in a Carnival?

Cultivating Echoes of Grace

Dale Martin is fairly well-known in New Testament studies. He is, perhaps, best known for his work on social history and it’s impact on understanding the NT (See, for instance, his highly influential book The Corinthian Body), as well as important scholarship on sexuality and the ancient world.

dalemartin Dale B. Martin

Earlier this year he stopped by the University of Kent and presented a lecture (Ancient, Biblical, and Modern Families) open to the public, introduced by UKC’s own Ward Blanton (whose doctoral project was supervised by Dale). The link below leads to a video of Dale’s lecture, so feel free to take a gander.

Please forgive the video’s non-HD quality.

Ancient, Biblical and Modern Families lecture

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Why You Need to Learn Greek

Read this great post from Oxford.

Different cultures see the world differently, and the more languages you learn, the more of the world you are able to perceive. Learning New Testament Greek gives us a chance to step inside the shoes of the New Testament writers, to try to make sense of the world in their terms. The language is a puzzle – there are words and endings to be learned, and grammar to be understood, which all go together like a giant jigsaw, a black and white one which only gets coloured in once all the pieces are in the right order and you can see the whole picture. It gives you a different way of studying which can be a helpful break from and reflection on essay writing. It lets you read texts without relying entirely on someone else’s translation and interpretation.

Fun Facts from Church History: Sitting on God’s Lap, We Often Befoul Him

Sitting at his table,

luther09The doctor [Luther] took his son on his lap, and the child befouled him. Thereupon he [Luther] said, “How our Lord God has to put up with many a murmur and stink from us, worse than a mother must endure from her child!”

Luther’s greatness lay in the fact that everything was theologically instructive for him. Everything. Would that a generation of theologians would rise up today who actually, like Luther, thought theologically!

Jerome: To A Linguistic Pretender

jerome11You know enough Latin and Greek to make the Greek think you a Latin scholar and the Latin a Greek.  – St Jerome

I read that and thought right off of the folk who cite Strong’s concordance in an attempt to persuade others of their linguistic skills.  They ‘know’ enough Hebrew and Greek to make the person who knows neither think they are a scholar of both.

I love Jerome.  A straight-talker if ever there were one.