Friday, February 27, 2009

Deadly Sins

In Catholic theology, we talk about the Seven Deadly Sins. Human's love to catorigize and lable so that things are easire to deal with. Anyway, the seven deadly sins can easily be remember by a wonderful acronmyn (and being a computer programmer by trade and the son of an Air Force Officer by birth, I love acronyms). Fr. Doug Travis taught me this acronym: APESLAG.


I had often wondered what it is about sin that leads to death. We all know that the wages of sin is death. We all know that Sin do not coexist. So, why does God hate sin so much? What is it about sin that causes God to cast us away from Himself?

When I was in college, I often wondered about death and hell. What was just about God condemning a man to eternity of punishment for 70 or 80 or even 100 years of sins - no matter how heinous the sins were? How could I reconcile God's justice and love with this rather imbalanced equation (100 years of sin = eternity of punishment).

I prayed and asked questions. Perhaps the most important work for me on this subject was C. S. Lewis' book The Great Divorce. In it, Lewis sees people making the same choices that keep the from heaven and he sees a few leave hell. It is a wonderful book on the nature of time and eternity.

Another book that was instrumental to my image of sin and hell was Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle's Inferno. It is a "rewrite" of Dante's Inferno, but updated for the 20th Century. (As an aside, they have a sequel out, Escape From Hell, which is wonderful as well.) There is one scene that showed me a possible reason for hell. The protagonist of the story (Allen Carpenter, a science fiction author), sees a psychiatrist in the pit of Falsifiers and Counterfiters. The psychiatrist tells the story of putting a catatonic in a hot box until the catatonic reacted and when they got to box up to 130 degrees, the catatonic said his first worsd in sixteen years: "Get me the f$%# out of here!" The story continues:

The mad eyes found me, and his face seemed to cae in. The cherubic
smile vanished. Urgently he said, "Get me the f$%# out of here!"

I reasoned the same as Niven and Pournelle - that Hell was Heaven's insane asylum. Like Lewis, I thought it possible to leave Hell (at which point it becomes purgatory). Now I don't know if that is true or not and I have no real desire to find out personally, but I like the idea.

Now, what is it about Sin that causes us to enter Hell? What causes us to be judged?
When I think of sin as part of our nature - our ontology or our being rather than specific acts, I get a better idea. Sin is living or thinking as if God does not exist. Sin takes us away from God, not because God sends us away, but because It is virtually impossible to reach your destination by stearing away from it. Sin is not just rebellion against God, it is acting as if you are God yourself and God Himself does not exist. Sin is unreality. Sin is death because it takes us away from the Author of Life Himself - God. The Seven Deadly Sins are so labled because they cause us to deviate from the Path that God set for us to reach Him.

There are two correctives for sin. First, of course, is confession. Naming your sin and confessing it and taking responsibility for it and receiving God's forgiveness is a wonderful and freeing exercise. The second, and more permanent is to be made new. To be filled with God's grace and to have our new life operate within us so that we sin less and less.

Over the next several days, we will discuss each of the Seven Deadly Sins in more detail.

Phil Snyder

The First "A" - Anger

Thursday, February 26, 2009

What a Difference a Comma Makes

I remember a story by John Neuhouse that I read in "First Things" several years ago. He walked into a Church and saw a banner that read


Now, I affirm that we often serve God by serving other people. I am a deacon and find that the most fulfilling ministry I do is not at the Altar (although I love the Altar). The most fulfilling ministry I do is in the prison or at the Sunday School class. I find that I serve God best by serving His people - even if those people deny that they belong to God (especially if they deny they belong to God!). If you want to serve God, go among His people and serve them in God's name. Go to a homeless shelter, a prison, a soup kitchen, a resale shop. Teach Sunday School, help clean up after a church dinner. Join a yard team to keep the church grounds neat. Join a mobile yard team that cuts the grass of elderly or disabled people who cannot afford to pay someone to cut their grass. By looking in the face of the poor, the oppressed, the sick, prisoners, and the like, we see the face of God. To know God, know His people.

Fr. Neuhouse wanted to change the banner slightly. He wanted to put a comma in it.


This shows us that God is not like us. God is utterly Other. We are not God. To know God, know that you are not Him and neither is anyone else. To know God, know that you know nothing yourself. To know God, you must seek Him to reveal Himself to you. To know God, we must hear the "still small voice" the Elijah heard. To know God, we must wait for Him.

Now, as an Anglican, I affirm both statements. I know that serving other people is serving God. And I know that other people are not God. I am called to serve them. But they are not God. Only God is God. I cannot put their needs ahead of God's needs because they often don't know their need. They "need" power, drugs, money, affirmation, food, shelter. What they really need is Jesus (along with food, shelter, and God's love). This Lent I call you to seek God's face in the face of the poor around us. I also call you to seek God's face in prayer and meditation. Know God in other people and Know God as other, people!

Phil Snyder

What does God want?

In Moral Theology classes (and in college bs sessions) we often asked ourselves what God was more interested in. Was God more interested in what we do or in why we do it? In other words, is it better to do the wrong thing for the right reason or the right thing for the wrong reason? Let's take these one at a time and see if we can some how solve this dilema.

It is it better to behave righteously because of selfish motives.
This thought says that God is more interested in what we do than why we do it. It acknowledges that our motives are almost never pure.

Let's take a specific case that is rather easy to resolved - one with both pure and selfish motives. When I go to prison, I often get my own needs met in addition to meeting the needs of others. I feel good about myself and the work I do. I feel pride in it and I get a boost of "self-esteem" when others say what a great or good man I am because of my prison work. I confess that part of the reason I am involved in prison ministry is because of the feelings and accolades I receive. I also am involved because I believe that God wants me there and because I see a great need to help the lost find what they are looking for in Jesus Christ. But my motives are not pure. Would God rather me wait until my motives are pure? I doubt it. I believe that God wants me to do the work and to offer my selfish motives to Him so that He can make them pure.

Now, let's take a slightly different case. I am a glutton. I love food and use food as a drug far too often. Now, I often will say "no" to dessert or seconds when I am with others - not because I believe that the excess food is bad for me but because I want the others to think I am trying to work on my weight. Is God pleased with my "no" when I say it only to look better to others? I do not believe so. I believe that God is not please with my relationship with food - even when I refuse.

I don't think we can always say that God is please when we do the right thing for the wrong reasons.

It is better to do the wrong thing for the right reasons.
This statement says that God is more concerned with motives than with actions. It states that God would rather we sin if that sin is what we were convinced was the right thing to do. The problem is that we never know the right thing to do. Our consciences are twisted by sin so that what seems right at the time can be very sinful. This leads to "he made me do it" actions. People have killed others or physically and emotionally abused other in the name of helping them. It leads to the idea "we had to destroy the village to save it."

Between these two ideas, I (if you hadn't guessed) come down to doing the right thing for the wrong reasons. But. I don't think that God is as interested in what we do or in why we do it so much as in who we are.

God did not become incarnate, live, die on the cross, and rise to new life in order to change either our motives or our behaviors. God lived and died as one of use to change our nature. God came, not to make us nice, but to make us new.

Sinful behavior and sinful motives both flow from sinful being. God does not want to change our behavior so much as to change our being so that we are no longer sinful creatures. So to the original question - what does God want? God wants us to be new men and women. He wants us to have new life and to live from that live. The old life is one that is filled with sin and darkness. The new one is filled with God and animated by the Holy Spirit.

The sins we commit and the reasons we commit them are signs of how strong the old life is with us. So, next we will discuss the famous "7 Deadly Sins"

Phil Snyder

Update - The Seven Deadly Sins

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Sin - what we do or who we are?

Today is Ash Wednesday in the Western Calendar. It is the beginning of the season of Lent. During Lent, we are to examine our selves and to practice fasting and self-denial to let God better prepare us for the Joy that is Easter. So, I thought a small series on Sin would be appropriate.

First, what is sin? In the West, we tend to focus on sins as things we do. I remember a t-shirt I saw in College:
  • When we drink we get drunk
  • When we get drunk we fall asleep
  • When we fall asleep we commit no sin
  • When we commit no sin, we go to Heaven
  • So, let's all get drunk and go to Heaven!

Aside from the gluttony involved in getting drunk, the basic idea "when we sleep, we commit no sin" shows how "action" focused we are when it comes to sin. Further, we tend to think of "sin" as those actions that are socially unacceptable. Both of these are, like all good lies, partially true, but not the whole truth.

We tend to think thought like "Well, I didn't worship at the Temple of Zeus today, so I guess I'm not guilty of idolatry." or "Well, I didn't have sex with someone who is not my wife (or husband) today, so I guess I'm not guilty of adultery." The fact that we decided it was more important to sleep in than to say our morning prayers (thus worshipping our selves and our needs rather than God) or the fact we ignored our spouse and spent time in "harmless flirtation" with the attractive neightbor seems immaterial to us. We narrowly define specific sins and then, since we didn't to that, we didn't sin.

The truth is much worse than that. The fact that we spend any time at all justifying our selves or trying to minimize our sins shows how far we are from God's righteousness.

Sin isn't just what we do. Sin is a part of who we are. Sin is part of our DNA if you will. Sin shows itself in the baby's cries when she is not getting enough attention. It shows itself in the young boy who picks on others to make himself feel more important.

Over the next few days, I intend to spend some time looking at sin, not just in what we do but in who we are. Perhaps when we better understand the pervasive nature of sin in our lives we will be more ready to repent of this and ask our Lord to come and make us new.


Phil Snyder

Update - What does God want from us?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Tax Time - A Simple Lesson







Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Inside and Outside Strategy

The Episcopal Church is broken. It may not realize its brokenness and I doubt that it realizes the harm it has done to Anglicanism specifically and Christianity in general. In the name of "Justice" it has begun to bless sins and to pursue a "schorched earth" policy against clergy, congregations, and dioceses that cannot, in conscience, remain within TEC.

This both saddens and angers me. I love TEC. I was raised in this Church. I learned to serve God in this Church. I received New Life in this Church. I was fed with the Sacraments by holy and unholy men and women in this Church. I have served (as lay-chaplain and as a Deacon) nine different bishops in four different dioceses. I received ordination as a Deacon in Christ's one, holy, catholic and Apostolic Church in TEC.

TEC is sick and refuses to go to the doctor. She refuses to take the medicine that will make her well.

Since the 60s and 70s, there has been a steady left-ward march from TEC's leadership. The problems today are not new. They did not drop out of thin air. They are the direct result of the problems of decades ago. If I were to pick a starting point, I would pick the lack of discipline for Bishop Pike. Bishop Pike became apostate by denying essential doctrines such as the Trinity and the House of Bishops refused to discipline him. This led to more heresy and apostacy being practiced without consequences within the life of the Church. The culmination was not the consecration of Bishop Robinson. The culmination was the acquital of +Walter Righter in the famous trial where the bishops sitting in judgment of +Righter (many of whom had committed the same offense) made up the concept of "Core Doctrine" (something new to Anglicanism) and declared sexual morality outside of "Core Doctrine."

The whilwind we are reaping today is a direct result of the seeds we planted in the 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s.

Along with each of the milestones along the way, there were people who left the Church to form their own Anglican body. The largest of these Exoduses was after the Ordination of Women and the approval of the new Book of Common Prayer in 1976. Each time people left, it made the orthodox groups politically more vulnerable. These "Continuing Anglicans" were not part of the Anglican Communion and they fractured into many different bodies - each with its own special take on Anglicanism.

It is this history which I fear is repeating itself with today's "Outside Strategy." The only difference (and this is a huge difference) is that today's version of the "Contuing Anglican" movement strongly desires to remain part of the Anglican Communion. That is the outside strategy's saving grace. But there are still way too many different bodies within the outside strategy group for my comfort. As I understand the Anglican Church in North America, ACNA, proposed constitution, each "group" (or "network" such as AMiA, CANA, etc.) will continue to have its own ecclesial and political structures - each being part of ACNA. So, there is an AMiA bishop in charge of the AMiA congregations around Dallas. There is a Southern Cone bishop in charge of the Southern Cone congregations around Dallas. There is a Kenyan Bishop and a CANA bishop with similar responsibilities. This is madness and not workable in the long run. Until there is a return to one bishop in an area for churches in communion with each other, I cannot support the Outside Strategy. If the persons and personalities involved in the outside strategies cannot empty themselves to the point that they submit to another authority, then I cannot submit to them.

But the inside strategy cannot work! The inside strategy will not reform the Episcopal Church.
As I said in an earlier post, reforming TEC is not my responsibility. It is God's. I am called to witness to the power of God to make all things new. I am called to show the joy of following Jesus Christ in my own life and I am called to witness to the Truth. If I am to fight, God will provide the weapons and armor. If I am to die, I will die willingly. I am not called to success, but faithfulness.

I long for a faithful Church. My heart desires to abandon TEC and be joined to a more faithful expression of Anglican Christianity. But, I cannot abandon my Bishop, my Rector, nor my congregation to follow my heart. If I have learned one thing as a Christian it is that my heart (like all human hearts) is faithless. My heart is not God's heart. So, I must trust that God will let me know what He wants me to do.

My prayer is that those pursuing the Inside Strategy and those pursuing the Outside Strategy will work together, pray together, worship together (when possible). Witness to God's strength inside and outside. Do not depend on political expediency alone. Do not trust to committees. Do not trust in courts. Trust in God. Trust in Him Alone. Let the inside strategy be the anvil and the outside strategy be the hammer that God uses to reform TEC.

One thing that both we one the Inside and and those on the outside need to do is to let go of anger. The insider feel anger at being abandoned in the fight by the outsiders and the outsiders feel anger at the insiders who are collaborating. Both feel abandoned in their time of need. Both are right. But both need to move past the need to be right. We need to empty ourselves of our agendas and desires and be filled with God's faithfulness. Only then can either of us be fit instruments for reforming Anglicanism in North America.

Phil Snyder

Monday, February 09, 2009

The "New Thing" and the Fruits of the Spirit

One thing we keep hearing regarding the issues of authority and sexuality is "The Spirit is doing a new thing."

Now this references Isaiah 43:19.

This chapter is rather interesting. The first part of the chapter (verses 1-21) talk about God loving Israel and bringing her in "from afar" and "from the end of the earth." They talk about the power and majesty of YWHW.

But, starting in chapter 22, God says:

Yet you did not call upon me, O Jacob; but you have been weary of me, O Israel! You have not brought me your sheep for burnt offerings, or honored me with your sacrifices. I have not burdened you with offerings, or wearied you with frankincense.

You have not bought me sweet cane with money, or satisfied me with the fat of your sacrifices. But you have burdened me with your sins, you have wearied me with your iniquities.

I believe this is a wonderful passage to talk about sexual morality in the Church. The chapter ends:

I, I am He who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins. Put me in remembrance, let us argue together; set forth your case, that you may be proved right. Your first father sinned, and your mediators transgressed against me.

Therefore I profaned the princes of the sanctuary, I delivered Jacob to utter destruction and Israel to reviling.

Now, I consider myself a "classic liberal." By that I mean I will be willing to discuss any topic and will change my mind when shown a better case than the one I hold. I am willing to admit that the Holy Spirit is leading us to bless same sex unions. I am willing to agree that homosexual relationships can be sacramental and that the life long union between two men and two women is blessed like the life long union of one man and one woman. But, I need evidence. Show me in Holy Scripture where this is true. Show me, out of the Apostles' Teaching where this is true. Show me the Fruits of the Spirit in this.

I am referencing Galatians 5:19-25

Now the works of the flesh are plain: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, party spirit, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such there is no law.

And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.

In the Episcopal Church and in the Anglican Communion, I see too many of the "works of the flesh." I see impurity, enmity, strife, anger, selfishness, dissension, and party spirit and I see them on all sides of this issue. I see this "new thing" bringing about schism and pain. I see it causing brothers and sisters to hate each other. I see too much name calling and personal attacks. I see the devil at work here, not the Holy Spirit of God. All of this was predicted when TECUSA started out on this course of action. We were warned of what would happen if we proceeded and we did it any way.

I ask my brothers and sisters on both sides of this issue: "Where is the gentleness in our lawsuits? Where is the patience in ACNA? Where is the self-control and the faithfulness?

John asks us to "test the spirits." In my testing of this spirit, I find it to be of the anti-christ for it breaks and tears the Body of Christ - the Church. If this "new thing" were of the Holy Spirit, I would expect to see more evidence of the fruit of the spirit rather than the works of the flesh.


Phil Snyder


"IF" is a big word. I have often said: "If is the largest two letter word in the English language."

One thing I have struggled with my entire life is feeling loved and accepted by others - especially my peers. I know that others struggle with this as well. I believe that our society is so "self esteem" focused because, subconsciously, we recognize that we are fallen creatures and not "worthy" of love. So, we proclaim (loudly) that we are good and that we are worthy of all sorts of honors. I believe that we do this because we (secretly) suspect that we are not lovable. We work hard to earn the love and respect and acceptance of others because we need that affirmation that comes from love and respect.

The problem is that the world (and most of us if we are honest) say: "I will love you if...." "I will love you if you are strong enough, good enough, smart enough, good looking enough, rich enough, work hard enough, etc."

We waste a lot of our resources trying to get past "if." As a society, we spend untold millions on cosmetics and surgery trying to get "good looking enough." We spend more time at the office trying to get "rich/successful enough." We all spend too much on "stuff" trying to win the approval of either ourselves or of others. We hope the stuff will fill the void left by "I will love you if."

The problem is that we are trying to fill a hole that only God can fill.

So, what is the solution? The solution is staring us in the heart. It is to surrender to God and not seek affirmation elsewhere. We need to learn and trust (=faith) that God loves us. God does not love us "if." He simply loves us. God does not love use because of what we are or what we do or have done or will do. He simply loves us.

If the Creator of the Universe (who knows us better than we know ourselves) loves us and believes that we are worth dying for, then what does it matter what others think of us? If we know, both in our hearts and in our heads, that we are loved, then "if" becomes meaningless.

The path to knowing yourself and loving yourself is knowing God and being loved by God. The path to loving others without "if" is to know that God loves them (and you) without "if" and to ask God to help you get past "if" in your life.

Now, God loves us as we are. But the Love of God is not unconditional. Accepting God's love means accepting the New Life that comes with God's love. It means being transformed and changed. It means surrendering to God. It means that we will be killed and raised to new life.

Knowing and accepting Gods Love is the most challenging and frightening prospect I can think of.

It is also the only choice we can make if we want peace in our lives. If we want to be free of "if" and free to love ourselves and others in a way that doesn't depend on "if," then we need to respond to God's love in faith and ask to be changed - ask to be transformed - ask for help surrendering and ask to be killed so that we can be raised in New Life.

Are you ready to leave “If” behind?

Phil Snyder