28 Dec 2004
In his Short History of Byzantium, John Julius Norwich notes “an aspect of daily life in Byzantium [that we] find hardest to comprehend: the involvement of all classes of society in what appear today to be impossibly abstruse doctrinal niceties.” From Byzantium’s beginning in the 4th century AD, long battles occurred between the orthodox and adherents of doctrines with strange names like monothelitism and monophysitism. These were discussions that would stress our most advanced seminarians today. They involved deep questions about Christ’s divinity, his nature and will. If Christ is real, these discussions matter. And yet, so many moderns instinctively look down on these “barbarians” from the Middle Ages, who would surely marvel in turn at our arrogance. How poorly we compare intellectually to these citizens of what is laughably referred to as the “Dark Ages.”
18 Dec 2004
In defense of Christmas lights
You can always find any number of complaints about how people see the lights and tinsel of the holiday season, but miss the “reason for the season.” As the theory goes, it’s a sad thing that people like the shallow glitter and ornaments and snowflakes, as they lured by commercialism to seek ways to cover their emptiness.
Maybe. But is it possible that many people are desiring something that they do fully not understand? The warmth and cheer of the holidays, seeing beautiful decorations and Christmas lights and the glow they leave in the snow.. Do these perhaps point to the surpassing beauty and joy that the Father of Lights (James 1:17) has in store beyond these Shadowlands?
Many people enjoy the heavens, forests, and rivers without connecting them back to their Creator. But that doesn’t make the creation shallow.
11 Dec 2004
Abram was called from Ur of the Chaldees in Mesopotamia. Hosea noted the Assyrian empire’s brutality, Isaiah called them the “rod of God’s anger,” and Jonah went to Nineveh to convict the Assyrians of their sin. The Babylonian empire grew upon the ruins of the Assyrian one. Jeremiah lameted its captivity of Israel and Daniel gained influence in its courts.
Today, upwards of 2 million Iraqis are Christians, most affiliated with the Catholic-aligned Chaldean church or the independent Assyrian church. It is a fascinating to read about Christian descendents of these civilizations.
10 Dec 2004
U2: this or that
Do you believe this or this about U2?
08 Dec 2004
Theology is a map
Theology is the study of God. Theology is important because knowing God is important. CS Lewis had this to say in Mere Christianity:
I remember once when I had been giving a talk…an old, hard-bitten officer got up and said, “I’ve no use for all that stuff. But mind you, I’m a religious man too, I know there’s a God, I’ve felt Him: out alone in the desert at night; the tremendous mystery. And that’s just why I don’t believe all your neat little dogmas and formulas about Him. To anyone who’s met the real thing they all seem so petty and pedantic and unreal!”
Now in a sense I quite agree with that man. I think he probably had a real experience of God in the desert. And when he turned from that experience to the Christian creeds, I think he really was turning from something real to something less real. In the same way, if a man has once looked at the Atlantic from the beach, and then goes and looks at a map of the Atlantic, he will also be turning from something real to something less real.
…But here comes the point. The map is admittedly only colored paper, but …. it is based on what hundreds and thousands of people have found out by sailing the real Atlantic. In that way it has behind it masses of experience just as real as the one you could have from the beach; only, while yours would only be a single isolated glimpse, the map fits all those different experiences together. In the second place, if you want to go anywhere, the map is absolutely necessary. As long as you are content with walks on the beach, your own glimpses are far more fun than looking at a map. But the map is going to be more use than walks on the beach if you want to get to America.
Now, Theology is like that map. Merely learning and thinking about Christian doctrines, if you stop there, is less real and exciting than the sort of thing my friend got in the desert. Doctrines are not God: they are only a kind of map. But that map is based on the experiences of hundreds of people who really were in touch with God, experiences compared with which any thrills or pious feelings you and I are likely to get on our own are very elementary and very confused.
And secondly, if you want to get any further, you have to use the map. You see, what happened to that man in the desert may have been real, and was certainly exciting, but nothing comes of it. It leads nowhere. There is nothing to do about it. In fact, that is just why a vague religion — all about feeling God in nature, and so on — is so attractive. It is all thrills and no work; like watching waves from the beach. But you will not get to Newfoundland by studying the Atlantic that way, and you will not get eternal life by simply feeling the presence of God in flowers or music.
08 Dec 2004
To give you an idea of how old the Great Pyramids of Giza are, they were more ancient to Cleopatra (who lived around 50 years before Christ) than Cleopatra is to us. They were ancient history when Jesus walked the earth!
05 Dec 2004
Repentant vs. abandoned
We’re all hypocrites who fight ongoing battles with sin. Many Christians struggle with homosexuality and desire to be clean of it. On the flip side, many homosexuals claim to be Christians but say that God made them the way they are. Therefore, they can continue practicing their lifestyle.
There is a major difference between these two types of homosexuals. The former is a sick but repentant patient in need of God the physician (join the club– this is the condition of all Christians). The latter is abandoned to homosexuality and pretends that what the Bible calls a grievous sin is “natural.” This is putting one’s own system of righteousness in place of God’s righteousness as revealed in Scripture. It dismisses the clear Biblical teaching that God’s path — and thus the best path– is that the only acceptable sex is inside a man/woman marriage.
It doesn’t matter whether you are born with homosexual urges or they came from environmental factors, because God calls us away to better things. We are tempted to do many things, perhaps things that tempt us much more than others, but that doesn’t mean that we have to actually do them. And it doesn’t mean that we should pretend that it’s really all right. Also, there is no point in using the actions of some anti-homosexual buffoon as an excuse. Your argument isn’t ultimately with people, it’s with God.
Homosexuality is only one of many sins and isn’t by a long shot the most widespread sin in the culture. However, it is a sin that many people today have convinced themselves is not really sin. And not only that, it is shamefully aided by a support network in many churches “who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death… approve of those who practice them” (Rom 1:32).
01 Dec 2004
Saint Johnny Cash
Johnus Magnificus reads the NT.
01 Dec 2004
The Message Bible
One of the unsung stories in the MSM is the unbelievable success of Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Life. It has sold 17 million copies and has been at #1 or #2 on the New York Times bestseller list for almost two years. It’s apparently still flying off the shelves at a million copies a month and has been recognized as the bestselling hardback non-fiction book in history.
One big strike against PDL is its use of the Message Bible, which surely must rank as the most embarassing Bible ‘translation’ ever. Here is 1Cor 6:9-10 in the NKJV:
Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. “
And here’s the same passage from the Message Bible:
Don’t you realize that this is not the way to live? Unjust people who don’t care about God will not be joining in his kingdom. Those who use and abuse each other, use and abuse sex, use and abuse the earth and everything in it, don’t qualify as citizens in God’s kingdom.
See if you recognize this famous passage from the Sermon on the Mount:
You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule. You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you. You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are–no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.
There’s more where this came from if you’re a glutton for punishment.
01 Dec 2004
Kinsey and the 1940s straw man
The wife and I went to a movie last weekend, and one of the previews was for the new Kinsey film. At one point, Liam Neeson (Kinsey) asks a demure couple how many sexual positions they’ve used, and the woman responds something to the effect of “There’s more than one?” This drew one or two titters from the audience, but most people must have thought what I did: Do the filmmakers really think we’re that stupid? It’s not just that the heroic-progressive-taking-on-whitebread-society tune has been played a million times. It’s not just that Hollywood continues to make these falsified histories that are sure bombs. It’s the insulting nature of it all. Boy, those married people in the forties were repressed and unadventurous. They only knew the missionary position! Sure.