Sermons

Wesleyan Practice & Homosexual Practice

by Dr. Ralph Blair

This booklet is a slightly expanded version of an address delivered by Dr. Blair at the Annual Michigan Area United Methodist Pastor’s School, August 22, 1983 on the campus of Ferris State College in Big Rapids, Michigan. Dr. Blair’s address followed one by Dr. Robert Lyon, Professor of New Testament Interpretation at Asbury Theological Seminary. Dr. Lyon had been invited to focus on biblical and theological considerations and Dr. Blair had been invited to focus on clinical and scientific data, though both speakers included other material as well. A question and answer period followed both presentations.

(PDF version available here.)

Introduction

I suppose that an audience of United Methodist preachers isn’t the very easiest audience to address with much of what I have to say tonight, but I guess that there are preachers of other denominations (unnamed) with whom I might have an even harder time. In spite of all the seeming openness about sex today, we all, including clergy, have a certain uncomfortable feeling about it. And there is even more uncomfortableness about homosexuality. Even though the Bible leads the way in our thinking of God as the great Cosmic Lover, no less than John Wesley himself felt a sort of homophobic squeamishness over Charles’ phrasing: “Jesus, Lover of my soul, Let me to thy bosom fly.” [1] So I thank you for this opportunity to “calmly consider”—as Wesley might have put it again [2]—some material on homosexuality.

I’m tempted to try to win you over by adopting the strategy Thomas Coke used in another controversy. Your first American bishop reported having “found out a method of delivering [his testimony against slavery] without much offense, or at least without causing a tumult.” His tactic was this: “by first addressing the negroes in a very pathetic manner on the duty of servants to masters, … the whites will receive quietly what I have to say to them.” [3] As there are not very many openly gay people here this evening, however, I cannot really begin by “first addressing the homosexuals in a very pathetic manner.” I assure you, though, that when I’m speaking before openly gay groups, I’ve been known to come down hard against self-destructive patterns of what too often parades for homosexuality per se in some gay lifestyles, especially those of some urban gay males. [4]

Need it be said here that what I’m supporting is not every expression of homosexuality anymore than what most of you support is every expression of heterosexuality? I had hoped not. But apparently it does need to be said, in view of the negative caricature of all so-called “pro-homosexual” advocates painted by the first speaker [Robert Lyon of Asbury Seminary]. Need it be said here that what I support is not every expression of every homosexual anymore than what most of you support is every expression of every heterosexual? Sadly, it seems that I do need to say that I don’t support every expression of every homosexual. May I say, too, that I’m not in favor of the ancient forms of homosexuality known to the Apostle Paul, e.g., rape, cultic prostitution, “call boy” prostitution, and the inequalities of Roman and Greek master-slave pederasty. [5] There are some types of contemporary same-sex expression such as promiscuity, prostitution, and so-called “value-free” gay pride rhetoric that I don’t support any more than you support some types of heterosexual expression such as promiscuity, prostitution, “kiddieporn,” sex with minors, and so-called “value-free” open marriage. Neither you nor I want to be identified with all homosexualities or all heterosexualities any more than we want to be identified with all expressions of Christianity, be it Donald Wildmon’s, Jimmy Swaggart’s, or Mary Baker Eddy’s. I no more support the silly lesbian separatism of a Sally Gearhart than you support the stupid racial separatism of a Bob Jones. I am no more to be confused with advocating the gay est delusions of a David Goodstein than you are probably to be confused with the straight est delusions of a Werner Erhard. When “Gay is Good” becomes “Gay is God,” I protest just as I do when, failing to see the implications of the incarnation, others fail to see that “God is Gay” as well as God is all the rest of what we are, “yet without sin.” Read more →

Homosexual Counseling Journal

The Quarterly Journal of The Homosexual Community Counseling Center

EDITORIALS

Dr. Ralph Blair, Editor

1974 Editorials: Charter Volume, Numbers 1, 2, 3, 4

1975 Editorials: Volume II, Numbers 1, 2, 3, 4

1976 Editorials: Volume III, Numbers 1, 2


“Dr. Blair is scrupulously thorough and shows a remarkable analytic ability in his evaluation of the research of others. Indeed, his survey of the etiology of homosexuality is to my mind the best in existence.”

Carlfred B. Broderick, Ph.D., Editor
Journal of Marriage and the Family


“Ralph Blair has written a splendid survey of the etiology of homosexuality. [Blair’s] Homosexual Counseling Journal is attractive and so full of news and helpful information that it should be welcomed by many.”

Walter C. Alvarez, M.D.
Emeritus Consultant, Mayo Clinic


VOL. 1, NO. 1, JANUARY 1974

It was right for the Trustees of the American Psychiatric Association to drop homosexuality from the listing of mental disorders in the Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. At long last, those at the top of the psychiatric profession reached the conclusion that, in terms of nomenclature, homosexuality does not meet the criteria for being considered a psychiatric disorder. These psychiatrists educated themselves through critical evaluation of the evidence from both within and without the homosexual community. They recognized that homosexuality per se does not regularly cause subjective distress nor is it regularly associated with some generalized impairment in social effectiveness. This decision should help to improve the chances for greater public acceptance of homosexual men and women.

The one unfortunate move of the Trustees was that they also created a new category, Sexual orientation disturbance, to replace the discarded category of homosexuality. This entry applies to those who, among others and because of introjected negative thinking about homosexuality, feel that they would be better off as heterosexual. To this end they will be led to invest large amounts of time and money to try for psychiatric reversal of orientation. Unfortunately, their hopes cannot be bolstered by histories of success in such effort. In the process, the lives of third parties will be disrupted and the homosexuals will lose opportunities to learn repertoire for functioning appropriately in terms of their fundamental sexual orientation.

Homoerotiphobic psychiatrists are pressing now for a referendum of the entire APA membership in an attempt to overturn the Trustees’ decision to no longer list homosexuality as a mental disorder. When psychiatrists think about behavior which has been so unacceptable in their society, it may be unrealistic to expect that many of them could set aside their prejudices and assess the matter in rigorous diagnostic and statistical terms. Elsewhere in this issue of the Journal, May’s findings suggest that attitudes of members of the helping professions may have little to do with professional training and much to do with pre-professional opinions. The training of psychiatrists has been inadequate to counter popular notions about homosexuality. The response to a referendum might be characterized by what could be called, in Veblenian terms, a “trained incapacity” on the part of grass roots psychiatrists, as either citizens or psychiatrists, to change their impressions in light of more recent and accurate information. Read more →

With Sunshine & Rainfall For All: An Evangelical Affirmation of Gay Rights

by Dr. Ralph Blair

With Sunshine & Rainfall for All: An Evangelical Affirmation of Gay Rights is an expanded version of an address delivered by Dr. Blair at the 34th Annual Meeting of The Evangelical Theological Society in 1982. Dr. Blair is a psychotherapist in private practice in New York City. He is the founder and president of Evangelicals Concerned and is a member of The Evangelical Theological Society, The Christian Association for Psychological Studies, and The Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues of The American Psychological Association.

Copyright 1983 by Ralph Blair. All rights reserved. HCCC, Inc.


Let’s Listen With Love.

If we evangelical Christians are going to have anything worth saying in response to proposed gay civil rights legislation, we would do well first to hear what is being said. Quite apart from our having nothing intelligent to say if we really haven’t heard what’s being said, we fail to render what Bonhoeffer reminded us was the “first service one owes to others:” that of “listening to them.” When the early church faced what seemed to be strange claims of Gentiles to full rights in the church, believers did what evangelicals today are not so willing to do with homosexuals: they engaged in dialogue and really tried to hear each other. And they began by emphasizing truths about which they were all in agreement (Acts 15).

We have to listen caringly to what homosexuals and other supporters of gay civil rights legislation are really saying. We have to listen carefully to the wording of proposed legislation. We have to listen caringly when some people tell us of their being attracted sexually, romantically, only to some people of their own sex. We have to listen caringly when they tell us of the ways they’ve been discriminated against in a predominantly homophobic society and thus need the protection of such law. Our failure even to hear them constitutes part of the discrimination they’re trying to tell us about.

We who would preach the gospel to all the world—including homosexuals—must, with Westminster Seminary’s Harvie Conn, recognize that “A gospel that does not address people as the sinned-against poses a lot of problems … for the sinned-against.” (1) Conn helps us see that “compassion becomes possible when we perceive people as the sinned-against,” and that “at the heart of compassion is the idea of ‘suffering with’ (Rom 8:17), involvement in the pain” of the sinned-against. (2) To listen this way may tax some of us beyond what we can yet afford, for as Angelina Grimké said last century, “I am sure that the poor and oppressed … can never be benefitted without mingling with them on terms of equality.” (3) Hers was as repulsive an idea to those who then sought to keep “niggers” in their place as it is now to those who want to keep “queers” in their place. Her empathy, though, reflects what Ray Anderson, writing in The Reformed Journal, has called God’s “structure of human existence … the one for the other, the one with the other, [which] is essential humanity [and] the basis for social justice.” (4) Read more →

CALVIN500/ARMINIUS400

CALVIN500/ARMINIUS400

The 7th Annual Evangelicals Concerned Preaching Festival

Ocean Grove, New Jersey, October 9-11, 2009

An Introductory Lecture and Three Sermons

Dr. Ralph Blair

(PDF version available here.)


CALVIN500/ARMINIUS400: An Introductory Lecture

Calvin500. It’s not the new line from Calvin Klein. And Arminius400 isn’t Armani’s new fragrance.

See, some gay men are queer enough to get into something more than fashion and fragrance. That’s us, right! Back in the ‘80s, the New York Times said that our Friday night Bible study “is not what most people think New York gay men do on Friday nights.” And, most still don’t.

At least here in New York, very few gay men meet on Friday nights for Bible study. More do as a New York Press writer testifies he does: “It’s Friday night and I’m headed to the East Side Club, one of the last two remaining gay bathhouses in New York City.” He describes it as a “labyrinth of interconnecting dark hallways lined on either side with innumerable clapboard rooms.” I don’t think he intended the pun.

And yet, according to evangelical pollster George Barna, across America, “a substantial majority of gays cite their faith as a central facet of their life … and claim to have some type of meaningful personal commitment to Jesus Christ.”

Well, try telling an average New Yorker or evangelical Christian that a bunch of gay men are meeting in Ocean Grove this weekend in honor of two 16th century Protestant Reformers and to hear some biblical preaching and you’ll get any response but, “Well, duh!” Yet, here we are! One gay Christian emailed me, saying that he and another gay Christian would skip our event so they wouldn’t miss what he called the “historic” Equality March in Washington. But I’d say what we’re doing here is really more historic than yet another staged rally of gay rage in Washington.

Calvinists celebrate Calvin with gusto. Arminians celebrate Arminius—but with a little less gusto. And each group can be rather hostile to the other. This year, around the world, there are many celebrations of Calvin and at least one other commemoration of Arminius. But our event here in Ocean Grove seems to be the only one that’s remembering both theologians—together.

Maybe it’s not so strange that we’re the ones celebrating both groups’ guys. After all, we’re two groups’ guys—evangelical and gay. So it’s not such a stretch for us to see things from two perspectives—together.

Read more →

Our Sufficiency in The All-Sufficient One

“Our Sufficiency in The All-Sufficient One”

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
Philippians 4:13

Dr. Ralph Blair, Speaker

(PDF version here)

Martin Luther said: “The Bible is alive. It speaks to me; it has feet, it runs after me, it has hands, it lays hold of me.”  The very most significant legacy of the Protestant Reformation is the prominent position of the Bible in Christians’ everyday lives ever since.

Having, last night, noted this biblical importance in several ministries over the centuries since Luther, today and tomorrow we’ll look into this same biblical influence in our time, through what, evidently, are our day’s three most popular Bible verses.

In the spring, Christianity Today published a report, “Scripture as Spam”. We were told that, “of the 200 billion messages sent on Twitter in 2015, 40 million featured Bible verses.” Who knew that, out there in the Twitterverse, there were also Twitter verses?

Every generation of this weekend’s honorees – back to the 16th-century – was familiar with birds that were said to “twitter”. They also knew that nervous people were said to be “all atwitter”. But none of them ever heard of the “Twitter” that comes to our minds when we hear that word. Even I know more about Twitter than they did, and I’ve never ever twittered or tweeted or whatever. Even in the late 20thcentury, Eugenia Price did not use an electric typewriter. She hammered out all of her letters, her many devotional books and her over-700-page best-selling novels on her manual Underwood. And just in case the manufacturing of new manuals might be discontinued, Genie had bought herself an extra manual.

Earlier generations probably were more familiar with Bible verses than many Twitter aficionados are today. Of course, many probably misunderstood what they read, but to misunderstand something, one has to know at least something about it, even if only to recite it. The biblically illiterate can’t even misunderstand what they’ve never ever heard or read.

   The most frequently tweeted Bible verses were found to be, from first place to third: Philippians 4:13, John 3:16, and Jeremiah 29:11. Maybe you can quote John 3:16, but can you quote the Philippian and Jeremiah verses?

It also was found that, of 1.6 billion page-views of searchable online Bibles at BibleGateway.com, with more than 160 million visitors, these very same three Bible verses were the top three searched, though they ranked in a different order. At BibleGateway.com, John 3:16 led as the most frequently searched, followed by Jeremiah 29:11 with Philippians 4:13 ranking third.

There’s no doubt that “Post-Christian” Americans can’t quote these verses, though even they might make a stab at John 3:16. Sadly, many have never even heard these verses, or could easily understand them if they heard them. They’d have no reasonable context for understanding them. However, none of this means that the biblically illiterate don’t have know-it-all opinions on all they know nothing about – a common symptom of ignorance complicated by self-serving self-righteousness, especially on anything about the Bible.

Still, it can be surprising to us who live in the isolation of a secular center of elitists such as New York City, that Barna Research finds that twenty-five percent of American teenagers read the Bible at least once a week and ten percent spend 45 minutes or longer reading the Bible at one sitting. Thirty-five percent of teenagers believe that the Bible “contains everything a person needs to know, to live a meaningful life”. Sadly, though, this “is a statistically significant drop in six percentage points” from a year ago. Read more →

Affirming The All-Merciful’s Affirmation of Us

“Affirming The All-Merciful’s Affirmation of Us”

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
John 3:16

by Dr. Ralph Blair

(PDF version here)

Along with Philippians 4:13, Tim Tebow’s favored eyeblack is John 3:16, the second most tweeted Bible verse and the most searched verse at BibleGateway.com.

On Sunday, January 8, 2012, in the NFL AFC playoff game in Denver, Tebow led the Broncos to an overtime win against the Pittsburgh Steelers.  He did it with an 80-yard touchdown pass on the first play of overtime. Time magazine said it “left the Steelers and the watching world simply stunned”.  But the reporter could not resist labeling this “out” Christian quarterback, “polarizing”.  Of course, had Tebow been an “out” gay player, “polarizing” would not have been the politically correct adjective.

Tebow had set an NFL playoff record by throwing three hundred sixteen yards, 31.6 yards per completion.  316?  31.6? John 3:16! And wait, there’s more!  The CBS rating peaked at 31.6.  31.6? John 3:16! Wait, there’s more!  CNN noted that Tebow had “John 3:16” painted under his eyes when, three years to the day before this Denver play, he led the Florida Gators to their national championship.

Well, Bible numerologists were off and running. And alongside them, it’s not surprising that, the next day, Google Trends’ top three searches were: “John 3:16”, “Tebow” and “Tim Tebow”.

But, as you know, neither John nor any of the original writers of the Bible divided their texts into numbered verses.  These numbers were first inserted in 1551 by the meticulous printer, Robert Stephanus.  So, even Luther would have been stumped had he been asked to quote “John 3:16”.  He’d died five years before.  And, of course, “John 3:16” wouldn’t have rung a bell for John himself.  We shouldn’t read into strings of 3-1-6 what’s not in the text.

But, what’s been in John’s Gospel from the beginning, is so infinitely more significant than all the sports trivia and supposed numerical codes that get fussed over by folks with too much time on their hands, is this utterly earthshaking – indeed, Heaven’s shaking earth awake: “God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that whosoever trusts in him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)

No sentence in the whole Bible better sums up the basic message of the whole Bible than John 3:16.  The world has never received better news than this Good News encapsulated in the words of John 3:16.

Trivialized, even mocked, by those who may seem to have no clue as to its true meaning, but then, possibly may suspect something of its true meaning, they reject it with defensive fury.  Meanwhile, its eternal truth has been and is still received with eternal awe and eternal praise by all who know even a bit more than something of its amazing grace, even while in this world.

Popular black contemporary gospel singer Kirk Franklin has been apologizing to gay people for antigay attitudes in black churches.  He says: “More than anything, I’m trying to peel back those layers [that] keep people away from God and keep people away from experiencing the love of God and knowing God’s love as a father.  I’m trying through [my recent] album to erase the dogma and the ideology that gets in the way of the true essence of one of the most simplest things we could ever say to somebody: ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only son.  Whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life’.” Read more →

Participating in His Providence

“Participating in His Providence”

“ ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’.”  

Jeremiah 29:11

(PDF version here)

Each of the three top-tweeted Bible verses reveals that God initiates our relationship with Him and invites and empowers our response to Him.

Yesterday, we looked into our sufficiency in the all-sufficiency of God in Christ. (Phil 4:13)  We also looked into our affirming God’s affirmation of us in Christ. (John 3:16)  This morning we look into our participation in God’s providence, assured that His love in Christ reaches out to us, even from everlasting to everlasting.

In this morning’s text, Jeremiah the prophet conveys God’s providential words to Israelites in Babylonian captivity.  There’s good news: “ ‘I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’.” (Jeremiah 29:11)  Well, it’s easy to see why folks today are so favorably disposed to use this text – without its context – and frame it to footnote all their fondest fantasies.

But there’s good reason Jeremiah is called “the weeping prophet”.  He deeply experienced the pain of fellow Israelites in captivity for their sins.  And he suffered pain in their pushing back against his preaching the truth.  And, as far as it’s even humanly possible, he identified with and anguished over God’s grief over this wayward people.  Jeremiah’s head was so clogged with tears that he wished his eyes were great fountains to relieve such great grief.

As we attempt to look into this text from Jeremiah’s prophecy, we’d be wise to begin our thoughts on God’s providence by recalling the sage advice of John Owen: “There is and always was, much about God’s providential management of this world, that even the most improved reason of mere men cannot reach into.”

In attempting to look into God’s providence, humility is surely the only appropriate starting point. And humility is surely the only appropriate way to wend our way through such inquiry. Finally, humility is surely the only appropriate way to conclude our inquiry – humility under the everlasting sovereign grace of the God of all providence.

These words of caution are especially important if we’re stuck in a systematic theology of whatever stripe, for in such cramped and crowded quarters, we easily mistake that trap for the whole truth or fruit of the Spirit. Read more →

“To God be the Glory”

“To God be the Glory”

Your Story in His Story

by Dr. Ralph Blair

This sermon was part of the 2015 Evangelicals Concerned Autumn Weekend in Ocean Grove, October 9 – 11, 2015 commemorating the centennials of Anna Bartlett Warner, Fanny Jane Crosby, William Howard Doane and Booker T. Washington.

(PDF version here)


“What’s the meaning of life?” It’s been said that this question is itself, meaningless. And some find saying so, a handy posture of sophistication in the face of fears over delving any deeper.

Still, as put, “What’s the meaning of life?” can seem so conveniently abstract that it’s tempting to try to distract ourselves from any meaningful inquiry and any serious response. We try too simply to dismiss it as simply “unanswerable”. It’s not so simple. Yet, the postured meek, shrug with arrogance and rhetorically ask: “Who am I to say?” – meaning: “Who are you to tell me?” But their condescending remark is itself presented as an answer to the question. And, it’s a dogmatically simplistic “answer”, at that! Besides, the postured explanation leaves the one who strikes that pose, stuck in the fears that prompted the evasion of the issue in the first place. Those anxieties are not resolved.

So, we really can’t duck out of our responsibility to deal with what’s, at least, meant by the question of the meaning of life. We do ourselves no favor, trying to duck out of our responsibility.

We can’t get away with merely rationalizing that we have more practical or more pressing personal problems to contend with than to waste time with some “ivory tower” speculations on “the meaning of life”. Again, even that “ivory tower” expression of dismissal is as much an answer, in effect – and by intent – as a response given after rigorous investigation and contemplation.

Well then, instead of using the so-called practical or pragmatic or personal as a way out of facing the question, a merely rationalized refusal to look into the matter of meaning, let’s make the question practical, pragmatic and personal in terms of everyday life. Let’s move it from the seemingly esoteric to the conspicuously egoistic.

   In fact, that the question of “the meaning of life” can be, as put, reasonably faulted as too impersonal, can be a useful gift, suggesting that we ask it in more personal terms. If we do ask it in more personal terms, we find that the most meaningful way to ask the question about the meaning of life is to ask, “What’s the meaning of my life?” “What’s the meaning of yours?” This moves it out of the all too comfortable sphere of propositions and theory – often quite conveniently judged to be so unanswerable, so then we’re so unaccountable – into the discomfiting zone of one’s very own personal life where, our everyday personal responses are our inescapably everyday responsibilities. After all, that’s where we live, and where our daily experience of meaning means so very much to us. Read more →

“This is My Story”

“This is My Story”

Your Story in His Story

by Dr. Ralph Blair

This sermon was part of the 2015 Evangelicals Concerned Autumn Weekend in Ocean Grove, October 9 – 11, 2015 commemorating the centennials of Anna Bartlett Warner, Fanny Jane Crosby, William Howard Doane and Booker T. Washington.

(PDF version here)


Ever hear someone ask sarcastically, “What’s his story?” Ever hear yourself ask, “What’s her story?” The questioner smirks and rolls the eyes while putting the question to someone from whom a smirk and a roll of the eyes is sought and, calculatingly, assured. And it’s all done out of the questioner’s need for reassurance.

But, of course, it’s not really a question, is it? It’s a rhetorical question, so, it’s a statement.   And it’s a statement in search of affirmation and reassurance, so it has to be asked again and again – for seeking affirmation and reassurance that way never works. It’s put by someone who’s insecure enough to ask the “question” and it’s put to someone who’s insecure enough to give the affirming response that’s expected. It’s put by someone who’s seeking affirmation and reassurance, to someone who’s seeking affirmation and reassurance.

Now, there’s no chance for any real affirmation and reassurance from another who’s desperate for affirmation and reassurance. From his insecurity he’ll tell you whatever he knows darn well will work for him – for his best interest. So, how can one’s insecurity, plus another’s insecurity, add up to security for either person?

And, it gets still more troubling. The more anxiously insecure one thinks she is, the more danger she is to herself and to others. She attempts to overpower her anxiety with hostility but hostility isn’t up to the task. How so?

A person is anxious because he thinks he’s in danger. Whether or not he’s really in danger doesn’t matter to anxiety if he’s telling himself he’s in danger. But his hostility, meant to quell his anxiety, may actually invite an actually dangerous response from another whose sense of danger, from him, now prompts the hostility of his retaliation. Now he may sense even more insecurity and so, more ideas of danger and so, more anxiety, as well as now he might, in the presence of the real danger he’s brought on himself through his supposed remedy of hostility. So he escalates hostility.

Smirks and eye rolls are intended to bring reassurance of safety, but they betray the seekers and fuel the anxiety that prompted them. And each person senses something of what he’s doing as each one tries to escape the insecurity of his own shaky story about his own sensed flaws.

Meanwhile, our smirks and eyeball rolls about others, fail to address our own narcissistic notions that we don’t measure up. And, of course, it’s our judgments against ourselves that are distracting us, for what we really do think and worry about is what we buy into. And, too, our own smirks and eyeball rolls suggest that we are the objects of others’ smirks and eyeball rolls.

As long as that sort of assurance of safety is our aim and nothing more effective than denial and denigration of others is our game, our attention is stuck in our narcissism that’s, itself, of course, the trap. We can’t let go of our self-obsessing stories about our self-assessed flaws, even though our self-absorption is exactly what we really need to be freed from.

And trying to find faults in others does zilch to resolve any flaw we, ourselves, find in ourselves. We fall all over our own felt flaws and that’s not anyone’s fault but ours. Read more →

“The Bible Tells Me So”

“The Bible Tells Me So”

Your Story in His Story

by Dr. Ralph Blair

This sermon was part of the 2015 Evangelicals Concerned Autumn Weekend in Ocean Grove, October 9 – 11, 2015 commemorating the centennials of Anna Bartlett Warner, Fanny Jane Crosby, William Howard Doane and Booker T. Washington.

(PDF version here)


On the weekend after this summer’s EC retreat, an Australian ex-Catholic priest, now “theologian in residence” at Kirkridge, gave a workshop called, “In Memory of Jesus”. Advance publicity asked: “How would Jesus have wanted to be remembered?” Whoa! What’s with the subjunctive, the conditional and hypothetical? Does this ex-Catholic priest think Jesus didn’t make his intensions quite clear? Does he imply that Jesus was just another sage who got killed and vultures ate his rotting carcass, as another ex-Catholic priest, with the discredited Jesus Seminar, contends?

The publicity’s question disregards what Jesus told his disciples on the night before his crucifixion. It discounts their accounts of that memorable night in the upper room. It discounts their amazing accounts of his having been raised from the dead – an utterly unexpected outcome so far as they’d been concerned.

Postmodern “progressives” pretend to know better than eyewitnesses whose lives were completely changed after their encounters with the risen Jesus. These Jews then submitted to torturous deaths rather than recant their witness that Jesus is the risen Messiah, the everlasting Lord.

Clearly identifying with the Paschal Lamb, Jesus pointed to the sacrificial significance of his death. This was nothing his disciples expected. So, they didn’t make it up out of nothing.

Jesus, himself, told them to remember him, as he, himself, intended to be remembered: as the Innocent Substitute, Ultimate Sin-Bearer, God’s Sacrificial Lamb, as he began to disclose this to them, there in that upper room, in his discourse over bread, “my body”, and wine, “my blood”.

Of course, there in that upper room that night, what he was saying was not all that clear to them. But they sensed something strangely significant that required subsequent events to flesh out – literally – when they would later touch his resurrection flesh.

After despair and fear experienced over Calvary, after his resurrection and their fellowship with the risen Christ, they began to grasp the fuller meaning of his words and something of the eternal implications for them and for the whole wide world.

But a “bloody gospel” of sacrificial substitution is not what religious progressives wish to tolerate. This is what they despise. They insist that that’s all now so unacceptably out-of-date.

Well, they’re more right than they realize, they’re more right than they want to be and they’re right for the wrong reason. Read more →

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