First, my thanks go to James Higham for bringing the following news story to our attention. He also sent me the link to yesterday’s post on the Bishop of London.

Most of us know that the Church of England has been in deep trouble for decades. The less our clergy believe, the emptier our Anglican churches become.

As every sheep follows his shepherd, the English instinctively know that what they hear from many of our pulpits does not come from dyed-in-the-wool Christians. Hence, they flee, rightly abandoning aberrant preaching.

Although we do not have eyes into the soul of our clergy, some really do not inspire confidence that they are men and women of profound, unshakeable faith.

The Guardian recently carried a report of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s — Justin Welby’s — interview with Lucy Tegg of BBC Bristol. I’ve read the article several times and am deeply disappointed with — although not totally unsurprised by — what he said. (Incidentally, this is the same man who in July 2014 told the paper we are ‘too hysterical’ about radical Islam and again mentioned the usual tiny minority — ‘extraordinarily small’ — engaging in it.)

If we are going to persuade people to follow Christ, then, may we never miss an opportunity to do so.

The Archbishop told Ms Tegg that he sometimes doubts — his word — if God ‘is there’. Welby then mentioned Psalm 88 as being one of doubt. Actually, it expresses a feeling of abandonment.

Perhaps that is what Welby meant to say. Perhaps not.

Before going to Let us look at definitions of the two words from the Collins English Dictionary (emphasis in the original below):

doubt:

  1. uncertainty about the truth, fact, or existence of something (esp in the phrases in doubt, without doubt, beyond a shadow of doubt, etc)
  2. (often plural) lack of belief in or conviction about something   ⇒ all his doubts about the project disappeared
  3. an unresolved difficulty, point, etc
  4. (philosophy) the methodical device, esp in the philosophy of Descartes, of identifying certain knowledge as the residue after rejecting any proposition which might, however improbably, be false
  5. (obsolete) fear;

abandonment:

  1. desertion, leaving behind   ⇒ her father’s complete abandonment of her   ⇒ his abandonment by his mother   ⇒ Childhood experiences can leave behind intense feelings of anger or abandonment.
  2. cessation, discontinuation   ⇒ Constant rain forced the abandonment of the next day’s competitions.
  3. giving up, relinquishment   ⇒ the government’s abandonment of the policy

Psalm 88 was written by Heman and is a song of the Sons of Korah. The Sons of Korah wrote laments which express abandonment but then move towards hope and redemption. The first set encompasses Psalms 42 to 49. The next group of Sons of Korah songs are Psalms 84, 85 and 87. Nathan Albright has excellent explanations of the Sons of Korah psalms.

He also has a marvellous commentary on Psalm 88, which I would commend to the Archbishop and to all my readers, especially those who are suffering from depression and feeling very alone. It says, in part (emphases mine below):

In Psalm 88:10-12, Heman asks a series of (seemingly) rhetorical questions about God working wonders for the deadThough the questions appear to presume a negative answer within the psalm itself (given its grim and deeply frustrated mood), the whole context of the Bible provides a positive answer to these six questions.  God will work wonders for the dead (Ezekiel 37, I Corinthians 15).  The dead will arise and praise God (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).  The lovingkindness of God will be declared in the Grave (Revelation 20:11-13).  The faithfulness of God will be declared in the place of destruction (Isaiah 58:12, 61:4).  The wonders of God will be known in the dark.  The righteousness of God will be known in the land of forgetfullness.  This is not only true for death and literal ruins, but also figurative ruins.  As our body is the temple of God (1 Corinthians 6:19), the restoration of our spirits and bodies, our thoughts and our emotions, is itself rebuilding the ruins.  It is not only waste places and destroyed towns and cities, but also shattered lives, broken hearts, and wounded souls that need to be healed.  Heman is far from alone in his plight, or his anguished longings to be made whole once again (or perhaps for the first time).

It would have been salutary if the Archbishop had mentioned some of these aspects of Psalm 88 in light of the fact he took the time to specify it in his interview.

Fair enough, he did say this:

It is not about feelings, it is about the fact that God is faithful and the extraordinary thing about being a Christian is that God is faithful when we are not.

He then went on to discuss his faith in Jesus Christ:

Asked what he did when life got challenging, Welby said: “I keep going and call to Jesus to help me, and he picks me up.”

For many of us, our belief in Christ makes us ever more convinced that God is everywhere and with each one of us every day, regardless of whether we choose to acknowledge it. Why would this not be true for the Archbishop?

The Gospels record Jesus telling His audiences that horrible things will happen in the world before His coming again in glory: Matthew 24:1-36 and Mark 13:3-13.

Perhaps the Archbishop could have mentioned those passages, because many secularists ask the same question: why do so many bad things happen and why doesn’t God put an end to them?

Perhaps the Archbishop thought that his more encouraging words about his own personal faith would make the headlines. Sadly not.

It would have been better for him to have said that, like anyone else, he sometimes feels abandoned but that, even during those times, he believes that God will work everything to His divine plan and for a divine purpose.

If we are evangelising for Christ, let us measure our words carefully and put forward a positive, biblical case for Him, the Church and God the Father of us all.

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