Thomas Cranmer: Reformer, Saint, Martyr


Reading the Bible Symbolically


Are Science and Faith in conflict?


Practices of the early Methodists


The Jesus Prayer


The Most Censored Content in History?


Are churches confusing "Relevant" and "Trendy"?


Social Justice and Inward Holiness


The Reformers wanted a stronger Eucharistic piety


Parallel Commentary on the New Testament

 One of my favorite "classical commentaries" on the Bible is this Parallel Commentary on the New Testament.  John Wesley, Matthew Henry, and Charles Spurgeon are among the most influential thinkers on the Evangelical Protestant tradition, and of course Wesley's Notes are official doctrine of The United Methodist Church and some other Wesleyan bodies.

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Book Review: Canticle for Leibowitz


Some thoughts on Building a Basic Theology Library


Custom Bible rebind

 I got a Bible rebound.


Swear to God by Scott Hahn

 I may have posted about this book years ago when I was in seminary, but it was a great help to me on Sacramental theology (even if I didn't accept all of the apologetic for the Church of Rome).


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How I came to a Sacramental view of Baptism

 Embracing a Sacramental view of Communion was pretty straight-forward once I started reading more of the Bible, but it took a bit longer to come around on Baptism. 

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The Wesley Study Bible NRSV review

 Here is my review of the Wesley Study Bible.  It is a decent Study Bible that Wesleyans and Methodists will find useful, though it is a bit "light" and needs both more consistent editing and many more features if it wants to be a really good-to-great Study Bible.

Another good Study Bible (better in many respects) from a Wesleyan perspective if the Reflecting God Study Bible in the NIV translation (of 1984).

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Lift Thine Eyes by Mendelssohn

 "Lift Thine Eyes" is a great example of Protestant sacred and choral music.  The image set to this recording is a chapel in an Anglican Cathedral.  This is the kind of beauty that a religious culture creates when it has a vision of the Transcendent Artist as the Source of all things.

The words are from Psalm 121.

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The Poison of Subjectivism by CS Lewis

 I am increasingly worried that, among the gatekeepers of power in our society - and among masses of people willing to riot when they are upset - feelings and "lived experience" increasingly trump actual, empirical, facts.  

This is why some prophetic and prescient individuals have referred to our time as a new "dark age." 

We shall see if people are willing to push back.

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Grace, "Means of Grace," and Sacrament in Wesleyanism


Rule Of Life in Wesleyan Practice


Summarizing the Wesleyan Message


Salvation in Wesleyan Theology


Why I am not a Pacifist (from C.S. Lewis)

I love these CS Lewis Doodles. 
 Here is one on a topic that I addressed in one of my videos a while back. 
This has application not only for Lewis' immediate situation (his country was at war, but some were electing not to serve because they were Pacifists), but also to the more general question of the use of violent force to defend justice, or to defend the weak and the helpless from the ravages of wicked actors. 
Scripturally, we see that both in his heavenly court (Ps. 82:4) and in his ordaining of human authorities (Rom. 13), God calls upon the strong to use their strength to restrain evil and protect the weak.  As Lewis mentions, this has been the consensus understanding of the universal church for many centuries.

CS Lewis: "Why I am not a pacifist"

Pt. 1:


 Pt. 2:


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Authority in Wesleyan Theology

 Today is, I believe, John Wesley's birthday; so it is a good day to publish this one as I'm trying to "catch up" on updating this blog with my YouTube content. 

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UFOs, Faith, and C.S. Lewis


Fathers' Day Message on David and Goliath

Must All Christians be Pacifists?

 My approach, reflecting the classic Christian consensus, in two videos: 


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Where to start reading the Wesleys


Getting our Swagger Back (Sunday after Easter)


Morning Prayer for Anglicans and Methodists

A detailed look at the Daily Office of Morning Prayer in the Book of Common Prayer, John Wesley's revision of the Prayerbook, and how it continues to influence United Methodist liturgy.

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Resurrection Sunday Changes Everything

The message and worship service for Easter of 2021 at the Saint Francisville Methodist Church.

 (Also, a rare opportunity to see me in a surplice).

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The Passion of Jesus Christ


5th Sunday of Lent


The Daily Office & John Wesley's Common Prayer Book Revision

 This video is an introduction to the spiritual discipline of "The Daily Office" or "The Divine Hours", with a focus on the Biblical foundations of the practice, the practice of the Church of England in Wesley's day, and how the Daily Office was revised and passed along to the Methodists by John Wesley.

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Liturgical Colors and the Christian Year


Palm Sunday - Reading of the Passion of Christ & Sermon

Sermon for the 5th Sunday of Lent


Review of "A Daybook of Prayer"


"Real Presence" and the Prayer of Humble access in Methodist liturgies

Have the Methodists actually remained Wesleyan when it comes to how our prayers express our faith in the Real Presence of Christ's Body and Blood in Holy Communion?

Well, yes...but...

In our official liturgies (and our informal acts of worship), I think there has sometimes been a tendency to downplay the real presence of Christ or any sense that we are really feeding (in a spiritual manner) on his body and blood, as is stated in our Articles of Religion (Article XVIII).

A great example of this tendency away from our original "high" sacramental theology is seen in the changes to the classic "Prayer of Humble Access." 

This prayer draws upon the very vivid - some disciples even thought TOO vivid, even scandalous - language that Jesus uses in John chapter 6.  This prayer is included in the various editions of the Anglican Book of Common Prayer (BCP) beginning with the original BCP of 1549 compiled by Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, and John Wesley retained it (from the 1662 BCP) without any change at all when he prepared the original Sunday Service book of the Methodists: 

We do not presume to come to this thy Table, O merciful Lord, trusting in our own righteousness, but in thy manifold and great mercies.  We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under thy table.  But thou art the same Lord, whose property is always to have mercy: Grant us therefore, gracious Lord, so to eat the flesh of thy dear Son Jesus Christ, and to drink his blood, that our sinful bodies may be made clean by his body, and our souls washed through his most precious blood, and that we may evermore dwell in him, and he in us.  Amen.

The theology here fits well with our Articles of Religion and such Charles Wesley hymns as "Come Sinners to the Gospel Feast," as well as other writings of John Wesley on Holy Communion

But the actual request (in italics) of this prayer was apparently TOO vivid for some Methodists as well (perhaps we'd spent too much time with the Baptists at the big tent revivals), for in The Book of Worship of 1944 we see this new version of the prayer, which represents a much "lower" sacramental theology: 

We do not presume to come to this thy Table, O merciful Lord, trusting in our own righteousness, but in thy manifold and great mercies.  We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under thy table.  But thou art the same Lord, whose mercy is unfailing: Grant us therefore, gracious Lord, so to partake of these memorials of thy Son Jesus Christ, that we may be filled with the fullness of his life, may grow into his likeness, and may evermore dwell in him, and he in us.  Amen.

This prayer represents a dramatic shift away from the "Real Presence" view of Holy Communion held by Wesley (and Anglicans more generally) toward a "Memorialism" view of the Supper, which is the view held by Baptists, that the signs of bread and wine merely remind us of Jesus' sacrifice and inspire our piety. 

However, during the 20th Century, United Methodists were influenced by the Liturgical Renewal, the Ecumenical movement, and also an attempt (led by Albert Outler and others) to recover a more authentically Wesleyan approach theology.  So the UMC's HYMNAL of 1989 gives us the new liturgies in modern English that much more clearly express a "Real Presence" theology, though they do not include The Prayer of Humble Access (or the accompanying Agnus Dei).  

At the same time, the "Traditional language" liturgy (on p.30) gives us a version of the Prayer of Humble Access that is a bit of a compromise, capable (at least at first glance) of being interpreted in either a more "Memorialist" OR a more "Real Presence" manner.  It is an improvement over the 1944 prayer, but does not return to the 'scandalous' language of Wesley's original Sunday Service book:

We do not presume to come to this thy Table, O merciful Lord, trusting in our own righteousness, but in thy manifold and great mercies.  We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under thy table.  But thou art the same Lord, whose property is always to have mercy: Grant us therefore, gracious Lord, so to partake of this Sacrament of thy Son Jesus Christ, that we may walk in newness of life, may grow in his likeness, and may evermore dwell in him, and he in us.  Amen.

Basically, the word "memorials" has been replaced with "Sacrament" with a couple of other minor changes.  This opens up the possibility that the phrase could be interpreted as "the sacrament that reminds us of Jesus Christ" (Memorialism) or "the Sacrament that is filled with & conveys the presence of Jesus Christ" (Real Presence).  However, the use of the word "Sacrament" makes the Real Presence interpretation more natural, since a Sacrament is traditionally defined as "an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace that conveys the grace that it signifies."

This is where the prayer stands in our official liturgy at present.

I propose adding one further change: adding the words "of the body and blood of" after the word "Sacrament".  So here is how it would read (in a bit more modernized English): 

We do not presume to come to this your table, O merciful Lord, trusting in our own righteousness, but in your abundant and great mercies.  We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under your table, but you are the same Lord who always delights in showing mercy.  Grant us, therefore, gracious Lord, so to partake of this Sacrament of the body and blood of your Son Jesus Christ, that we may walk in newness of life, may grow into his likeness, and may evermore dwell in him and he in us.  Amen.

This is not a return to the full blown "eat the flesh" language of Wesley's original Prayerbook (and John chapter 6), but I believe that the petition "grant us...so to partake of this Sacrament of the body and blood of your Son Jesus Christ..." is nevertheless a significant step in a more Wesleyan direction, and more clearly articulates a theology of Christ's "real presence" and of "spiritually feasting on his Body and Blood" as explained in our Articles of Religion and Confession of Faith.

If there is a liturgical revision or a new Hymnal/Worship Book after the (apparently) looming schism, I hope that something like this prayer (along with the Agnus Dei) will be included in all of the Communion Services.  

It is the Wesleyan thing to do. 

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CS Lewis on Ethics

There are lots of people these days who advocate for casting off tradition - including Christianity - as part of the wicked "patriarchy" in order to establish "social justice."  

I have long held that this whole movement is incoherent - it begins with basic assumptions that are part of traditional (and Christian) morality, and then uses them in its assault upon Christianity and Tradition.  But no new grounding for the moral claims is offered.

CS Lewis points out the basic problems with "new moralities" that actually borrow some aspects of the classic, inherited, morality in order to attack classic and inherited tradition.  It is a self-contradiction.


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Talking CS Lewis and reading Classics with Rev. Stephen Fife


Full Service 3.7.21 - Zealous Jesus mean and wild

The Courage to see enemies with grace

 Sunday Service for February 28th

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The Great Litany in Wesley's Prayerbook

 A look at the long and strong prayer, called the Litany, from The Book of Common Prayer and which John Wesley also included in his own Sunday Service Book.

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The Book of Common Prayer and John Wesley


Service of the Word for the 2nd Sunday in Lent

 Here is the early (8:30) service from this past Sunday.  The message is on Jonah 3:1 - 4:4.

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Courage: When you Pass Through Fire


Why use Liturgical worship?


Who Knows...

The message from this past Sunday about our need to "be heard" and "be known." 

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Celebrating the Savior in 2020 and beyond

Like so many others, I too have found solace in watching worship services and listening to sermons online.  One of the churches I have watched the most is St. Andrews Anglican Cathedral in Sydney, Australia, which is known as a Bible-believing and evangelical congregation based in a beautiful gothic cathedral, built in the grand Medieval style.

This is the opening hymn from their Christmas Eve service, and I have to say, it actually moved me to tears.  During the last verse (which I've not heard before, though we sing this hymn every year), there is a shot of a tiny little boy - he looks about 4 - who seems to be so focused and working his absolute hardest to do his little part help bring this musical message of the Gospel out to the world.  
That is even more beautiful than the cathedral.  May we all, young or old, follow suite in our own callings.

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Chaos at the Capitol and the Baptism of Christ

 Here is my sermon for last Sunday, (in part) a reflection on the state of our country after the riots and storming of the US Capitol that took place on the Feast of the Epiphany.

As I say in the sermon, our country will only have healing and reconciliation if leaders from all sides bend over backwards to extend olive branches to "the other side", even when it means setting some of their own partisan ambitions aside.  Our country, as some international observers have said, looks like a powder keg.  Drastic measures should be taken to "de-escalate" things right now.  

Sadly, I think the moves to impeach a president who only has 2 weeks left in office is exactly the wrong move.  It serves no real purpose besides revenge, which only and always begets more revenge.  And, ironically, it ensures that Trump's name will always live in the history books, which I am sure will please him.

It seems to me that Biden and the Democrats had a unique moment last week to rise to the occasion and put the country above politics in a way that Trump was (in my view) not doing.  And they blew it by reverting to the usual Washington DC power-grabbing and political maneuvering.  As if it is all they can see.  I truly do fear for the future of this country.

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Sermons of Advent and Christmas

 IN a sermons series that was loosely intended as a commentary on the Nicene Creed (which my congregations always use during Advent), I examined classic mistakes or heresies of the ancient church that are, in different ways, still with us.

As always, the best way to follow my videos is to go on YouTube and subscribe to my channel and hit the "notification" button (if you have the option) to get email updates.  I try to post 2 videos a week.

I've already posted one of these sermons in a previous post.  Here is the rest of the series:






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The faith and spirituality of the Creeds


Why some Protestant churches look "Catholic"


Second Sunday of Advent Sermon


First Sunday of Advent Sermon

In the Nicene Creed we say that the Holy Spirit "has spoken through the Prophets" and that Christ's mighty acts of Salvation were "in accordance with the Scripture." 

In this sermon I address the Marcionite heresy which, in a "soft" form, is with American Christians still today.

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Important Books: The Great Divorce

 Here are my thoughts on this masterpiece from C.S. Lewis, one of my all-time favorite works on Christian spirituality.

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Important Books: Upper Room Spiritual Classics


Important Book: The Imitation of Christ

 My thoughts (posted originally a few months back) on this beloved devotional classic.

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NT Wright - The Challenge of Jesus and other good books

Here are my reflections on some of the first books I discovered from this guy called NT Wright.


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Important Books: The Shallows - What the Internet is doing to our Brains by Carr

 I know I've blogged about this one before, but here it is again, well worth a revisit.  Along the book discussed in my last book review video, Postman's Amusing Ourselves to Death, I believe Carr also helps identify some of the reasons that our public discourse has become shallower and more foolish and less civil and wise in recent decades.  It's the way we are re-shaping our brains through the use of the internet.


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Important Books: Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman

 Here is another book recommendation video, looking at one of the most prophetic books of my lifetime: Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business.

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The Art of Dying Well


My reflections on the Screwtape Letters

Here is another discussion and introduction to a book that I believe is important for Christians, and which has impacted me: The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis.

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Thoughts on Voting

Peace in any Circumstance

Having the Mind of Christ in an Election Year


Ideas that had consequences in 2020

 Here is a great lecture from Roman Catholic Bishop Robert Barron on the philosophers whose ideas are now expressing themselves - sometimes even violently - on the streets of many American cities.  This is a great video and well-worth watching it all.  I wish I had access to this back when I was taking courses on Political Philosophy at LSU.

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Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

My reflections on one of the Great Ones:

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Thank God the Christians ended slavery

 I find it interesting that, at least in some circles, Western Civilization has been so thoroughly dismissed and derided for having accepted the sin of slavery, while at the same time every other civilization in world history which practiced slavery (basically all of them) is given a 'free pass' and also the role of West - and of Christianity in particular - in fighting to end slavery goes largely un-mentioned.

If we want to do real justice to the historical facts, we should be celebrating the role of Christianity - Evangelical Christianity in particular - in fighting to drive this evil from our common life.  Matthew Everhard is one of the Presbyterian/Reformed YouTubers that I follow, and in this video he does exactly that: 

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Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster

My reflections on Foster's spiritual classic.

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Rod Dreher on Defending and renewing Western and Christian Civilization

 This is an interesting video that brings together a number of authors and themes that I've been chewing on in recent years:  He talks about Patrick Deneen's thesis in Why Liberalism Failed, about how Christianity has been supplanted in the hearts of many by "spin-off religions" such as "Moralistic Therapeutic Deism" or "Social Justice Warrior-ism."  He discusses Alister MacIntyre's After Virtue, and how the Benedictine monasteries preserved Western Civilization as the Roman Empire collapsed and knowledge and technology actually regressed.  He discusses practical things that we can be doing to help preserve the legacy of all that is best in Western Civilization (while also being frankly honest about the bad and the ugly).    

Definitely alot to chew on here (and maybe a bit some readers may want to spit back out); I certainly think Dreher is on the right track here, and have come to see my role as a parent and as a spiritual father to my church as passing on, first and foremost, the Biblical faith in Christ, and secondly as passing along the very best of the Western tradition to others.

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How to read the Bible Wisely

Reading the Bible wisely (Maybe I could subtitle this: "Don't blame the Bible when you say something foolish").

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"False Alarm" on Climate Change? An interview with the Author

In a year or two, I'd like to finally sit down and watch Al Gore's movie "An Inconvenient Truth" and see how many of the predictions have or have not come to pass.  I suspect the latter will more often be the case, but we will see.

Now, I must say - like the author in this interview - that I do believe in Climate Change, I do believe that at least a good portion of it is man-made, and I do believe that our public policy and our personal habits should work together to minimize its impact.  Indeed, the energy efficiency revolution, combined with lower-emission sources of energy are already having a significant impact.

But I also believe that the danger posed by Climate Change has been exaggerated to the point of absurdity, particularly by our media and politicians.  
And, I cannot help but note, they are also precisely the people who have the most to gain in terms of influence or profits from everyone believing a narrative that says "The End is Nigh!" (so read this article! or vote for this savior!).

Indeed, according to this video, surveys show that nearly half (48%) of the world's adults believe that "Climate Change is likely to cause the extinction of the human race." 

This interview is with a "climate economist" named Bjorn Lomborg, who says that the facts indeed do not support this kind of dire thinking.

I cannot help but thinking that there is something about the human spirit that has trouble seeing anything past the absolute very the worst case scenario (or worse still!).  Remember Y2K?  The voices saying "Probably nothing much will happen" were certainly not the voices most amplified in our public discourse.  But they turned out to be right.

Again, the Climate problem is real, and bad things will indeed happen if we do nothing...but humans are extremely adaptive and assuming that we will do nothing at all, as some news articles have done (which he points out in the video), is an unrealistic assumption.  

As I said, Mr. Lomborg is a climate economist, and I am always suspicious of arguments that pit economic benefits over against environmental health in a simplistic way (and then always say to go with "economic benefit").  
Mr. Lomborg has a much more nuanced and data-driven approach.  

He also points out some things that are often missed in the discussions.  For example, many of the strategies to combat climate change have a disproportionately negative impact on the lives of the poor and working class.  

As Christians are called to care for the poor and needy - and also be good stewards of the natural world - this is an especially important consideration for us as we think and pray through these issues. 

Anyways, that is enough introduction: here is the thought-provoking video.

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Theological Discernment in the Church

John Wesley, at the end of his "Roman Catechism and Reply" shares this great quote from St. Vincent of Lerins, one of the Early Church Fathers.  St. Vincent (died A.D. 445) was describing how the Seven ancient Ecumenical Councils determined what was and was not orthodox Christian belief, as they attempted to clarify the Bible-based faith during times of theological controversy.

Embracing this theological method as a gift from God was United Methodist theologian Thomas C. Oden's great point that he argued for in so many of his books: From the Ancient Councils right down to John Wesley, right down to the Classical Christians of today (over against all forms of what might be called "revisionist" Christianity), we have a remarkable agreement about how to do theology.  Look for what is held in common across the ages, across the cultural boundaries, by the great mass of Christians.  That is orthodoxy.  This is what is meant by doing theology by "catholicity" or "ecumenical consensus."

This saves us from odd, idiosyncratic, or culturally captive forms of belief.  This is how we hear what the Spirit has been saying to the churches.

It is ancient; it is also Wesleyan.  It is Classic Christianity.

Since Wesley was an Anglican priest, it will come as no surprise that this method is largely the approach to theology taken by the Anglican tradition as well.

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