A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life

A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life
I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Saturday at the Cinema: Preparers of the Way

Friday, March 27, 2015

Calling: First and Foremost It's Being Called to Follow Jesus

from Beth Felker Jones at The Christian History Institute:
AROUND THE TURN OF THE FIFTH CENTURY, Augustine wrote a compelling account of his life, the Confessions, which remains one of the most influential Christian books ever written. Beginning in infancy through the time of his appointment as bishop of Hippo, Augustine's narrative interpreted every aspect of his life as evidence of God's relentless pursuit of him. 

Augustine prayed to a God who sought him even when he was most rebellious, and he realized that God’s first calling to him was a call to be converted. He told his story as one in which his love of self was overcome by God's love for him. "I was drawn to you by your beauty," Augustine prayed to God, "but swiftly dragged away from you by my own weight."

In the early church, the question of vocation was not-- as it often is in the twenty-first century-- about what sort of occupation a Christian should have. The church fathers didn't sit around agonizing over whether they should be plumbers or doctors or teachers or farmers. Their agony, instead, was about submission to Christ. No one doubted that the results of answering that call would be dramatic.
The entire article can be read here.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

John Wesley: Faith Does Not Supersede Holiness

"Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law."-- Romans 3:31

A... way of making void the law through faith is the teaching that faith supersedes the necessity of holiness. This divides itself into a thousand smaller paths, and there are many who walk there. Indeed there are few people who wholly escape it--few who are convinced we are saved by faith, but who are sooner or later, more or less, drawn aside into this byway.

All those are drawn into this byway who, even if it is not their settled judgment that faith in Christ entirely sets aside the necessity of keeping His law, yet suppose either: (1.) That holiness is less necessary now than it was before Christ came; or: (2.) That a less degree of it is necessary; or (3.) That it is less necessary to believers than to others. Yes, and so are all those who, though their judgment is right in the general, yet think they may take more liberty in particular cases than they could have done before they believed. Indeed, the using the term liberty in such a manner-- for liberty from obedience or holiness--- shows at once that their judgment is perverted, and that they are guilty of what they imagined to be far from them: namely, of making void the law through faith by supposing faith to supersede holiness.

We are doubtless justified by faith. This is the cornerstone of the whole Christian building. We are justified without the works of the law as any previous condition of justification. But they are an immediate fruit of that faith by which we are justified. So that if good works do not follow our faith, even all inward and outward holiness, it is plain our faith is worth nothing; we are yet in our sins. That we are justified by faith, even by our faith without works, is therefore no ground for making void the law through faith, or for imagining that faith is a dispensation from any kind or degree of holiness.
John Wesley, "The Law Established Through Faith, Discourse 1," II.1, 2, 6.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Once Again... Bonhoeffer on Cheap Grace

More than a few of you have read this famous quote from Bonhoeffer before, but I am posting it again because of certain issues I have dealt with as a pastor over the past few days. Consider it my attempt at self-therapy.
Cheap grace means grace sold on the market like cheapjacks' wares. The sacraments, the forgiveness of sin, and the consolations of religion are thrown away at cut prices. Grace is represented as the Church's inexhaustible treasury, from which she showers blessings with generous hands, without asking questions or fixing limits. Grace without price; grace without cost! The essence of grace, we suppose, is that the account has been paid in advance; and, because it has been paid, everything can be had for nothing. Since the cost was infinite, the possibilities of using and spending it are infinite. What would grace be if it were not cheap?...

Monday, March 23, 2015

Science Myths That People Still Believe

from Lisa Winter, iflscience:
1. We only use 10% of our brains. It's true that there’s a great deal we don't know about the brain, but we certainly do know that we use our entire brain.

2. There is a dark side of the moon. Except in the case of a lunar eclipse, sunlight falls on half of the moon (exactly how half of Earth receives daylight at once) all of the time.

Violence in the Old Testament: Theological and Pastoral Concerns

I keep coming back to this issue of violence in the Old Testament on this blog because I have two concerns--one as a theologian, and the other as a pastor (I'll get to that a little later). Of late there has been a resurgence of a kind of quasi, neo-Marcionite reading of some of the Old Testament texts that simply dismiss difficult themes, in this case, God's participation in violence, particularly in the conquest narratives in the Old Testament book of Joshua. These texts are viewed as incompatible with the revelation of God in Jesus Christ in the New Testament, so they are simply to be dismissed as primitive projections of a primitive tribal people. I have suggested in a previous post that a Christological understanding that leads to such a view of these Old Testament texts is itself based on a deficient Christology.

In the video posted below, Walter Brueggemann says that such a dismissive approach to the violence of the Old Testament is too easy, and I agree. What we have in such passages cannot be viewed simplistically as primitive projections from a primitive people, but such texts are, says Brueggemann, indeed revelations of God. Brueggemann's claim forces us to take these text seriously as Scripture, precisely because they are Scripture and are indeed difficult to understand in light of the decisive revelation of God in Jesus Christ. Nevertheless, Brueggemann's approach is to be preferred over the dismissive approach that has once again reared its quasi, neo-Marcionite head. And that leads to my two concerns.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Scriptures and Prayer for the Fifth Sunday in Lent

Old Testament: Jeremiah 31:31-34

Epistle: Hebrews 5:5-10

Gospel: John 12:20-33
God of suffering and glory, in Jesus Christ you reveal the way of life through the path of obedience. Inscribe your law in our hearts, that in life we may not stray from you, but may be your people. Amen.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Self-Forgiveness or Real Forgiveness?

You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of others; but God knows your hearts; for what is prized by human beings is an abomination in the sight of God (Luke 16:15)

"In confession a Christian breaks through to certainty. Why is it that it is often easier for us to confess our sins to God than to another Christian? God is holy and sinless. God is a just judge of evil and the enemy of all disobedience. But another Christian is sinful as we are, and he knows from his own experience the dark night of secret sin. Why should we not find it easier to go to another Christian than to the holy God? But if we do, we must ask ourselves whether we have not often been deceiving ourselves with our confession of sin to God? Whether we have not rather been confessing our sins to ourselves and also granting ourselves absolution. And is it not the reason perhaps for our countless relapses and the feebleness of our Christian obedience to be found precisely in the fact that we are living on self-forgiveness and not a real forgiveness? Self-forgiveness can never lead to a breach with sin; this can be accomplished only by the judging and pardoning Word of God."

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, No Greater Love: Lenten Meditations