Response to Bishop Jim Njegovan’s

Thoughts for the Journey

February 2007

By: Father Larry Winslow

 

In many ways we should be grateful to Bishop Njegovan for his thoughts in February 2007’s “Thoughts for the Journey.” He has called to attention the fact that many Christians do not study their faith sufficiently. The Bishop has called upon Christians to truly study their faith and to strive to understand the foundations upon which it is based. Christians need to be able to stand firm and to logically and knowingly be able to present and defend the tenets of their beliefs.

 

Unfortunately, while many are able to state what they believe and to stand firm in that belief, they are sadly unequipped and unprepared to present and support the Gospel in an evangelical manner. And, in line with Bishop Njegovan’s admonitions, it is imperative that True Christians undertake a planned approach to increasing their knowledge and ability to be missionaries of the Gospel right in the time and place God has placed them.

 

But, this has to be undertaken in a planned and schooled fashion. And, most importantly, such study must be of material and authors that are centred upon the Holy Word of God. Bishop Njegovan, in his pretence of being open to many forms of theology, recommends the reading of material from “a wide range of theological perspectives and scholars” as reviewed on the Diocesan WEB page. But, save for reading undertaken to learn from where the heretical theories come in terms of both authors and seeming logistical approach, to initially study works whose authors are not centred upon God’s Word and the Truth contained therein is not an economical use of time and does not lead to the strengthening of the foundations of True Christian Faith.

 

Bishop Njegovan references his experience at a conference with The Rev’d Dennis and Rita Bennett. It is amazing that such an encounter could have taken place and not led to a strong Biblically Centred life in the participant. This writer also attended a three day conference with Father Dennis Bennett in the Diocese of Toronto. And, the admonitions to learn our faith in Jesus Christ and to grow in our understanding of the Christian foundations were certainly given. But, conveniently it would seem, the context and direction of such studies seem to have been lost upon the bishop.

 

The Bennett’s centred their teachings upon the Holy Scriptures of God. In fact, in their book “The Holy Spirit and You” they clearly state, “This is the all important question. No matter how cleverly we may work out our theories, if they don’t agree with the Scriptures, they are unacceptable.” Further, in the Teaching Manual for this same book they admonish the leader, “The Bible is the inspired record of God’s dealings with us, and our present experiences with spiritual things must be in line with this record. If you can’t find your spiritual experience in the Scripture, it isn’t in the mainstream, and if it is spoken against in the Scripture, you must renounce it completely.”

 

In fact, the Bennett’s so emphasised the Divinely Inspired Word of God in their teachings that they would not abide anything that contradicted the same in any manner. And, in cases where Holy Writ advocated something that the human mind could not understand, they “recommend to you that, even though you may have difficulty with these things in your mind, you come and experience God’s reality in the fullness of the Spirit. Intellectual understanding will come later. As the great St. Augustine of Hippo put it: ‘Credo ut intelligam,’ that is, ‘I believe in order that I may understand.’” In this vein of theology believing God’s Word even without understanding it in terms of purpose and rationale is to place one’s faith totally and utterly in the Ultimate Goodness of Almighty God.

 

Further, as Anglicans who are determined to follow the Anglicanism of the Reformation centred and predicated upon the Infallible Holy Word of God, it is important to seek the concepts of those who effected that Reformation. For instance, Thomas Cranmer once stated, “If there were any word of God beside the Scripture, we could never be certain of God's Word; and if we be uncertain of God's Word, the devil might bring in among us a new word, a new doctrine, a new faith, a new church, a new god, yea himself to be a god. If the Church and the Christian faith did not stay itself upon the Word of God certain, as upon a sure and strong foundation, no man could know whether he had a right faith, and whether he were in the true Church of Christ, or in the synagogue of Satan." This quotation clearly shows the intention God was presenting through the Reform efforts of this architect of the English Reformation. The Holy Scriptures were to be the foundational documents upon which all doctrine was to be established. And this is why the  Articles of Faith so clearly established the understanding of the Scripture in the Reformed Doctrine.

 

It can be remembered here that the Sin of Eve was one of placing herself and her desires (judgments) on a par with and in the stead of those of Almighty God. When today’s humanity reads Scripture and then knowingly goes against it saying that we know better today they are committing the same sin over again.

 

Thus, in choosing theologians to read one has to be certain that the writer is one who functions in this vein. And, although such seems hard for the average person to comprehend, the majority of today’s theological thinkers are more centred upon the mind of man than upon the Word of God. Persons such as Bishop Benison of Philadelphia are quite happy to say concerning the Holy Bible, “We wrote it; we can rewrite it!” Bishop Lee of Virginia is equally delighted to posit, “When one is faced with a choice between schism and heresy one should always choose heresy.” And Bishop John Spong easily states, “Only those with a limited understanding of modern life could ever imagine that a debate about homosexuality could be settled by quoting the Bible.” Bishop Michael Ingham in his “Mansions of the Spirit” denies the necessity of faith in the Virgin Birth, the miracles of Scripture, the physical Resurrection of Jesus, etc. Professor Walter Wink, Professor of Biblical Interpretation at Auburn Seminary in New York City, in his work “Homosexuality and the Bible” acknowledges that many passages of the Holy Scripture indisputably condemn and forbid homosexuality. Yet he tries to explain these away as judgment of the times and indications that God did not really understand the “modern world” situations. Further, he unsuccessfully, and with much lack of credible logic, attempts to say that the Bible contains no sex ethic. Professor Walter Deller of Emmanuel College looks for “wriggle room” in the Holy Scriptures to try to allow for behaviour the Church has forbidden for two thousand years. And it is these types of theologian that the bishop of Brandon would like people to waste time reading.

 

Further, Bishop Njegovan condemns Bible Believing theologians by placing them in a category he refers to as ‘televangelists and “popular pastors” as though these persons have nothing to say of any value concerning the Holy Word of God. It is almost certain that he would include orthodox conservative evangelical teachers such as Dr. J.I. Packer, Dr. John Stott, Dr. Michael Green, Dr. Marney Patterson, Dr. Edith Humphrey, Dr. Oliver O’Donovan, etc.- to name but a few - in this category of condemnation. And yet, these are all writers who uphold the Holy Word of God as ruling supreme. Their theology (thinking or study of God) emanates from the mind of God in His Holy Word. And these are the kind of writers that the true Christian should be centering upon to strengthen the foundations of Biblical Faith.

 

Further, it is essential to beware of Bishop Njegovan’s references to such things as Biblical Scholarship, the Creeds, the Thirty-nine Articles, and the teachings of the Church as these, like his mea culpa speech at Synod, are often fabrications intended to convey on the surface thoughts that are far from the real meanings in the bishop’s mind. Just as the bishop gave superficial assent to some Acts of Synod while planning to undermine the intention of Synod via his personal subsequent subversive actions, so his reference to these items is not above suspicion of intention.

 

He accepts Holy Scripture as being the Word of God but under the “interpretation” of himself and so-called “modern” scholarship (meaning scholarship that revisits, revises, and reinterprets Holy Scripture according to their thinking as opposed to the thinking of the Apostolic Tradition). The concept of the intentions of the God Inspired authors and the understandings of those who received them as transmitted to the Church according to the teachings of Jesus and His Apostles (the Apostolic Tradition) is totally secondary to the mind of modern man. While all Anglicans are expected to view the Holy Bible as BEING the Word of God and containing all things necessary to Salvation (in accordance with the 39 Articles of Faith), it is not so accepted in the minds of revisionist liberals – who still maintain their orders despite their violation of their vows. As Dr. John Stott writes in his work “The Incomparable Christ,” “For there is only one authentic Jesus, and that is the Jesus of the Apostolic Witness in the New Testament. There is no other.” Bishop Njegovan and the liberal school of thought also see no contradiction in making all Scripture subject to a multiplicity of modern human “interpretations,” which, in effect, says that their god is a god of confusion and deception who allows many understandings of his singular word.

 

As far as the 39 Articles of Faith are concerned, the bishop accepts these “as they are understood and interpreted today.” Again, as far as this approach is concerned, the meanings of the Reformers and those who included them in the Book of Common Prayer have nothing to do with their validity today. In fact, it is taught throughout the liberal schools today and by several clergy in the Diocese of Brandon that the 39 Articles are actually a political document of the 16th century and have no relevance to today’s Church. And those teaching such are ones who have signed assent to such in their Ordination Vows. Yet, despite these teachings, they do not have the integrity to renounce the vows they made based upon these articles.

 

Many revisionist liberal persons follow the teachings of Spong and Ingham concerning the Creeds. These teachings would deny the Holy Trinity, the Virgin Birth, the Atoning and Redeeming effect of the substitutionary death of Jesus on the Cross, and the victory of the Physical Resurrection of Jesus. They would say that the Creeds are nice liturgical tools but without substance for today’s Church. Truthfully, while he seems to be very friendly with Ingham, it is not clear at this point that Bishop Njegovan would support these views.

 

While Bishop Njegovan has made some salient points with his reference to Dennis and Rita Bennett and his personal urging of Anglicans to improve their foundational understanding of their faith, it is important to read critically “between the lines.” It is necessary for True Christians to make certain their foundational material is established upon the Rock of Jesus Christ - the Jesus of Holy Scriptures - and not the foundational sand of the false christ and false spirit emanating form the mind of revisionist/liberal humanity and being blamed upon the will of some ethereal god.

 

It is hoped that, in some way, this will help in putting the ranting in the “Thoughts for the Journey” into perspective.

 

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