House churches

The landscape of contemporary Christianity now includes groups of Christians who get together in each other’s homes and declare themselves a church.  They may meet on Sunday mornings or on convenient evenings during the week.  They may engage in worship, whether making up their order of service or following a liturgy.  Or they may just engage in Bible study and prayer.  Usually lacking a pastor, these “house churches” may substitute an informal discussion for a sermon, with the participants taking turns… Read more

A Biblical text for our time

Here is a text from Scripture for those afflicted by or afraid of storms, terrorism, tyranny, disgrace, loneliness, abandonment, apostasy, personal attacks, and other troubles of our time.  And it also speaks of vocation. From Isaiah 54: 4“Do not be afraid; you will not be put to shame. Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated. You will forget the shame of your youth and remember no more the reproach of your widowhood. 5For your Maker is your husband— the Lord Almighty is… Read more

A Reformation best-seller to read and give away

Luther’s Small Catechism is a marvel of clarity, depth, and spiritual insight.  Used for centuries to catechize children, it has also proven to be an inexhaustible devotional resource for adults.  Now Concordia Publishing House is making an inexpensive edition designed to be handed out as tracts or given to friends. The edition costs only about 50 cents each.  And yet, it is very attractively printed, with full-color artwork.   See what it looks like. The booklet is only 32 pages long, so… Read more

All sides are turning against Silicon Valley

The tech geniuses and entrepreneurs of Silicon Valley have been lauded for their creativity and innovation, held up as models of financial enterprise and economic brilliance.  But lately opinions have been changing.  Now the titans of technology are being regarded more as 19th century robber barons. According to Ben Smith in There’s Blood In The Water In Silicon Valley and Eric Newcomer in Backlash Against Silicon Valley is Heating Up, both conservatives and liberals–as well as people in between–are reacting against the magnates of the tech… Read more

A Unified Protestant Confession?

The Reformation, whose 500th anniversary is next month, had as its purpose the reformation of the Church.  But one result has been the emergence of some 33,000 different church bodies.  A major criticism of the Reformation is that it has created disunity among Christians. But is theological diversity the same thing as disunity?  Are there common beliefs that all Protestants can agree to?  A multi-denominational group of conservative Protestant theologians has drawn up a document defining a Protestant consensus entitled A… Read more

Refrigerators and anti-virus software as espionage devices

  Our new cybertechnology–all linked, interconnected, and hackable–including now the “internet of things”–opens up whole new vistas for espionage.  The government is requiring that a popular anti-virus and security software program be deleted from agency computers, out of fear that its Russian maker is connected to the successor to the KGB.  And Congress is considering a bill designed to require security measures for the “internet of things,” lest government refrigerators and coffee-makers get hacked. The ban on Kaspersky cybersecurity software for government computers… Read more

Tetzel on 7 Years in Purgatory for Every Sin

I came across a sermon from Johann Tetzel, the indulgence peddler who provoked Luther’s 95 Theses.  Part of his sales pitch had to do with the popular, though unofficial, teaching that Christians must suffer 7 years in the fires of Purgatory for each sin they have committed.  Doing the math reminds us of what it was like to be a western Christian in 1516. Though Christ died for the sins of the world, according to classic Roman Catholicism, His sacrifice… Read more

The Medicare for All Act

Sen. Bernie Sanders has introduced a bill that would give free medical care to everyone. Read more

The Natural Virtues, the Theological Virtues, & the Commandments

  In thinking about “virtue ethics” and the Christian life, it is important not to confuse “virtues” with “moral truths.”  A “virtue,” which literally means “strength,” is a character trait.  A “moral truth” is an absolute tied to God’s Law.  These two can be related, but they aren’t always.  And when we consider the cultivation of virtue, we need to keep in mind the distinction between “natural virtues,” which can be taught, and the “theological virtues,” which are a gift… Read more

Most Hurricane Relief Is Faith-based 

Hurricane Irma has dissipated after killing 12 Americans and doing about $50 billion worth of damage.  The islands of the Caribbean suffered even more, with 36 dead, major devastation, and now in St. Martin utter lawlessness, as looters plunder what’s left of businesses and terrorize survivors.  But the hurricane’s toll could have been much worse.  And faith-based organizations are leading the relief effort. Hurricane Irma was headed to the U.S. mainland as a Category 5 storm, aimed right at Florida’s most… Read more

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