For the last three Wednesday nights the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney Philip Jensen has been doing a series of talks titled “Why I am a reformed protestant evangelical Christian.” (I’m not sure if commas belong in that sentence) I thought last night’s talk was really good and I wanted to share some things that were said. I might do the previous weeks’ talks another time.
Woah! I just discovered this is the last week of the “official” Thursday Thirteen. Thanks for the Thursdays everyone! Obviously Thursdays will continue, not sure about the thirteens though…
Thirteen things from the Archbishop’s talk on Evangelicalism.
1. The evangelical revival (18th and 19th century) was an extension of the reformation, or “the reformation coming to life”. The ideals of evangelical religion (to spread God’s word not out of obligation but purely because of the love God has shown us) are from and go back to the bible. Unlike a common impression given out (especially by we stuffy Anglicans) experience does matter, but scripture still reigns supreme.
2. We are “justified by faith”. Funnily enough this is a feature of the reformation and protestant religion and evangelicalism. We are saved by trusting that Jesus bore the wrath of God and set us free from sin on the cross, it is therefore nothing we have done that makes us righteous before God. One could claim that it’s us who chooses to trust him… well, this point would get far too long if I tried to discuss that (I don’t even entirely understand it).
3. An excellent consequence of the above point is that we can have complete assurance of salvation. There have been Christians that did not have such assurance (
4. A potential danger which can diminish points 2 and 3 is down-playing the seriousness of sin. We can start to believe in the good works we do, even if we only do them because of what God has done, even if they are God’s work, it’s not those or our morals or anything else that save us. By down-playing sin we could detract from the work Jesu did when he died. While Jesus death might be a good example of sacrificial love and it doesn’t show that God knows how we may suffer, first and foremost it’s God redeeming people – “while we were still sinners” (Rom 5:6)
5. Apparently and evangelical emphasis is a need for conversion. I’d never really thought about this before, not specifically. He prefaced this point by saying of course people were converted before the evangelical revival, the concept just wasn’t as emphasised or understood. He said that it was important that Christians be converted, to turn to God in trust and repentance, that infant baptism isn’t good enough. It seems sort of obvious that infant baptism won’t save you if you don’t trust God in the rest of your life, I don’t think he was saying that infant baptism means nothing and you should do it again either. I think this point was also related to a more Calvinistic approach where you gain faith through education and knowing what the bible says about salvation, where as many can know, but not all will trust.
6. “It’s not the amount of your faith, but the greatness of your saviour that saves you.” Sometimes I look at the bible and recognise my own lack of faith and am saddened. I should remember this statement and rejoice.
7. Romans 5:2-5 – “More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
8. Perfection is something that belongs to our future, Jesus will usher in a new age with a new heaven and a new earth. Until then we will not be perfect. In this and Romans 5 I should realise that struggling is good. If I cease struggling I will not build maturity and character. If I no longer struggle then I either think I’m perfect, in which case I’ve fallen away from the gospel (1Jn 1:8) or I have given up, I don’t know if giving up equals falling away or if it’s a just saved kind of life.
9. I used to have the urge to add a bunch of conditions onto my definition of a Christian. I’d say a Christian was someone who trusted Jesus and lived accordingly etc. These things I added were essentially the things that the bible describes as flowing from true faith. I think I added them because I object to someone calling themselves a Christian but living as if God bestowing his grace upon us didn’t cost him anything. Since God is the only one who can see our hearts and Jesus is the one who will judge I must force myself to remove these conceptions from my mind. A Christian is someone who trusts in Jesus alone for salvation. That’s all. We’ll all have our own struggles in our lives, failing at some things doesn’t make us any less saved.
10. God hasn’t poured out his love on us making us more loving (see no. 7). It’s just that he has poured into our hearts his love for us. Essentially so that we may know him and his love, we are given love so that we can understand his love for us. (Ephesians 3)
11. There are diary entries and records that Richard Johnson, chaplain of the First Fleet, was the first man to preach a sermon in Australia. Samuel Marsden the first to do so in New Zealand. Richard Johnson hated being in Australia but he stayed to share the gospel with the lost souls that needed it – Jesus came to save the criminals too. Thank goodness he did or our country may have a very different shape.
12. In this series of talks there was some comparison of beliefs, more so in the other talks, but in this talk as he spoke about how evangelism in the 18th and 19th centuries was closely related to looking after people who needed it and the development of societies to help, including RSPCA, Bernados, and an organisation for the protection of children. He made the point that many evangelicals were also Arminians (as opposed to Reformists whose beliefs differ on topics including election), it made me realise that perhaps some of the things that I get upset about when people differ in opinion on them really don’t matter. If people believe in Christ alone, faith alone and scripture alone (yes all three things alone and at the same time! 😛 ) then they are brothers in Christ. That’s a bit related to no. 9 as well I think.
13. There was some banter about the various millennial theories. The main streams of thought on the end times include Pre-Millennialism, Post-Millennialism and Amillennialism. I know I’ve looked at these topics at least twice. I don’t remember what they’re about! I hope to find a reliable reading resource on the topic soon. Peter Jensen is an Amillennialist. (Or am I adding an incorrect negative prefix to the word Millennialism?)
Not part of the talk was a mention at the start of the night of three answers to prayer – prayers by other people that either affected the Archbishop, or people he knows. Hearing those things reminded how lacking my prayer-life is and how independent from God I am in that area. I struggle with this partly because I think God knows everything and what could I possibly say to him, partly because I know that God can do things, but there are some things that I think he won’t do. I hate these attitudes and want to be rid of them. If it’s a good thing to pray for then just pray for it and maybe God will answer with a “yes”, if he answers “no” then I have lost nothing and gained practice in depending on God.
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