What is Ascetical Theology?

Benedict of Nursia wrote that a monastic must have three intentional qualities of life in devotion to God: stabilitas , obedientia , and conversio morem. These behaviors — no, relationship-bearing vows — are what anchor a person to an ascetic life. One must be in a consistent church body home in which there is accountability and vulnerability. Douglas Burton-Christie said that “cultivating attachment to a place involves a personal response. It means entering into relationships of mutual commitment and responsibility, becoming part of a community.” One must also be under the obedience of, in Benedict’s understanding, an abbot; this submission allows the potential destruction of those human, sin-filled aspects of a man that causes separation from God. Continue reading


God and Trinity

Two chapters from Alister McGrath’s Christian Theology: An Introduction focuses on the doctrines of God and of the Trinity.

The first concern addressed is the doctrine of God. McGrath offers the minor theory that God might not be male and quickly moves forward. He identifies the “personhood” of God through such philosophers as Tertullian, Spinoza, and Buber. These offered what God’s love towards man looked like while retaining His omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence (199-203). McGrath discusses the emotions of God, namely the possibility for God to suffer. Continue reading

Marriage and Divorce

Part 1: Culture

We live in a culture that wants permanency, expects stability, desires equality. We also live in a culture that appreciates newness, anticipates change, values improvement. When we apply these aspects of life in general to the specific topic of marriage, the water can become muddied and difficult to navigate. In a culture that values upgrades — cell phones, cars, houses — it seems to be a rare occurrence to find couples who have been married for 15, 20, 50 years. It seems we live in a disposable society, and marriage is being entered into as an event and situation that can be deleted as easily as an unwanted email can be deleted from our inbox.

A while back, I was staying with my folks for a week, and as I do not have television at my home, we spent an evening glued to the tv watching crime dramas and the like. We watched an episode of Chicago Fire, and a sub-plot involved two couples divorcing, and the woman from one couple and the man from the other couple getting together. The day after her divorce was final, she and the man spent 48 hours in bed together. When the man got together with a buddy, the buddy high fived the man for his “getting out there” and, well, responding how men do…  I questioned what that interaction is illustrating about societal values: no sense of “loss” after divorce and “hooking up” is something to be cheered and encouraged.

It seems to me that there is a belief or an assumption that anything that does not bring us happiness or satisfaction or something more than our next door neighbor is getting is worth throwing away. And what is included in that list is marriage. I read an article in the local paper this last weekend that spoke of the difference between marriage and holy matrimony. The basic idea is that “marriage” is a contract and is grounded in The Declaration of Independence: “all men are created equal” and are to have unalienable rights to “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness,” and if that one party does not hold up their end of the bargain, that contract can be broken; conversely, holy matrimony is a covenant between two people and God the Father and shall be respected and honored and not be broken.

While I would like to definitively state what our culture values in terms of marriage, I cannot. A marriage like my parents, 46 years, is sadly the exception and not the norm. I am not sure what our culture values right now in terms of marriage, and based on what we see from those in the limelight (Hollywood and those in politics specifically), I’m not sure we have the role models to illustrate what those values are and how those values are demonstrated.

Part 2: Biblical Expectations

How does the Bible view divorce and remarriage?  The books of Matthew and Mark approach this issue differently.

How I view divorce in Biblical terms is found in Matthew 5 and Matthew 19: one may divorce as infidelity as cause. I also add abuse (sexual, physical, mental) as cause as well, though I am unsure if the Bible specifically states this. Feinberg and Feinberg notes that porneia refers to many types of “sexual impurity” (page 598), and to that definition I agree.

We are given the image of the husband as the head of the family as Christ is the head of the church in Ephesians 5. In that passage it is also made clear that the wife is to submit to the husband and hold him with respect and reverence with the assumption that she be accountable to her husband as she would be accountable to Christ.

This passage makes the assumption that those persons are believers. I also hold the passage in 2 Corinthians 6 that we are not to be yoked to unbelievers. Though this passage could infer any type of union which involves a stated or understood contract– marriage or business — it is important to reference this Biblical instruction here. If a marriage is begun with the man and woman not having a foundation of God, there will likely be additional problems to address throughout the life of the marriage.



What I Heard from the Pulpit

Had I been given both of my grandmothers’ first names, I would have been Nellie Margie.  Thanks Mom and Dad for looking ahead into my future and bestowing your mothers’  middle names to me so that I am Janie Layne.

When I was growing up, my friends wanted to be “Beth” or “Liz” instead of “Elizabeth.”  But not me.  I loved my name.  I understood that it was a piece of my heritage, and I never dreamed to be called anything differently.  In my mind — and my heart — to change my name would be to deny my grandmothers.  And I wouldn’t dare entertain that idea.

However, I would have also loved my name had I been born a boy.  I would have received both of my grandfathers’ names.  Stephen Forest.  Ah!  What a bold, strong, honest name! Continue reading

Simon Chan

In his text Spiritual Theology  Simon Chan addresses these topics: nature of spiritual theology, doctrine of God, nature of sin, and elements in salvation.

Chan states that spiritual theology is quite different from spirituality: “spirituality is the lived reality, whereas spiritual theology is the systematic reflection and formalization of that reality” (16). Spirituality could be a cause someone believes in; spiritual theology desires growth using the Bible and experience as anchors (18). Spirituality must be comprehensive, cohesive, and evocable to be a significant system (22-24). Chan discusses the ecclesiologies within various liturgically diverse traditions recognizing inherent benefits and insufficiencies (30-39). Continue reading


We recall Joshua asking the people, “Choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served in the region beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living” (24:15).

We recall God destroying two peoples with fire from the heavens: “Then the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from the Lord out of heaven” (Gen. 19:24). Continue reading

What I Heard from the Pulpit…

Don’t get tripped up on the piddly things that you lose sight of the deeper issues.

In Sunday’s sermon, Fr. John referenced the Gospel text in which the Canaanite woman went to Jesus and asked for help for her demon-possessed daughter.  The disciples got angry, however, and urged Jesus to get rid of her:  she was a Canaanite and she was female…a double whammy.   Continue reading

Julian of Norwich

Addressing the introduction to Julian’s Showings is a challenging task, indeed. Edmund Colledge and James Walsh have densely packed their research of the text noting the differences between the Short Text and the Long Text, Julian’s theology and exegesis of her showings, her keen development of the rhetorical style, the role of contemplation, and the dichotomy that inherently exists in God’s movement within fallen man. Continue reading


Nestled amongst the major prophets of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel lies the small but powerful book of Lamentations. While the prophets offer the dooming judgment of Almighty God upon Israel and Judah, trapped within the chaos and devastation of their own making, Lamentations allows a glimpse of the raw, exposed emotions of Jerusalem and their cry to The Almighty. This book is a nation — an entire race of people — in agony and despair recognizing its responsibility and ownership in its current depravity and rejection by God. Continue reading

Tend Your Flock

Reading Archbishop Michael Ramsey’s work The Christian Priest Today again as I am a secondary English teacher in a private Christian school, our text jumps and pops with relevance, direction, and encouragement!

What speaks to me most significantly is Ramsey’s direction to, “Tend the flock in your charge” (pg 69). As a leader Ramsey understands that we will be faced with many opportunities for growth, challenge, and strife that will include generational, political, social, and financial differences. Ramsey challenges us to behave with balance and temperance (pg 50) as we will need to see all aspects of whom we are leading and where we envision our “end point” (if there IS one) will be. Continue reading