“He comes down to the very depths”

For my Lenten reading, I have taken up Living by Faith by Oswald Bayer, a book that I have found to be extremely illuminating.    At the beginning of Lent, I posted about what I was learning from Bayer about how we have a primal need for justification, how we are always trying to justify ourselves, and the difference it can make to realize that Christ justifies us (see this and this and this and this).  I thought for the end of Lent, I would quote some passages from Bayer that I found both provocative and helpful.

Today, as Holy Week begins, I offer his reflections upon the necessity of knowing God not just through His glory but through His Cross. [Read more...]

Don’t expect religious exemptions from gay laws

Some Christians have said that the way to accommodate the new pro-gay laws is to accept them, but build in religious exemptions.  That is not going to be acceptable in the gay rights juggernaut.

Indiana has passed a religious freedom law, allowing individuals to claim an exemption in the courts when government action “substantially burdens” their religious beliefs.  Now thousands are protesting and boycotting the state, claiming that the law will enable people who have religious objections to homosexuality to discriminate against gays.

Christians need to realize that gays want to be accepted exactly on a par with heterosexuals, and they demand acceptance precisely from those who haven’t accepted them before.

I suspect that even among the general public anti-discrimination laws will trump religious freedom laws every time.  So will pastors who refuse to conduct gay weddings be charged with illegal discrimination?  I can see that happening.  Can you? [Read more...]

The new war in the Middle East

Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates are bombing Iranian-backed rebels in Yemen.  Different Islamic nations are also battling each other in Libya, Syria, and Iraq.  Experts say this may herald an all-out Middle Eastern war.

This would be an all-Islamic conflict, with Sunnis fighting Shi’ites and different factions of Sunnis fighting each other.  There is no way Saudi Arabia, which claims authority over Sunni Islam, could countenance the ISIS Sunnis’ claim to have re-established the ancient caliphate.  Also, traditional rulers are fighting rebel movements, who want both politcial freedom and radical jihad.

This is not, strictly speaking, an American fight, though the United States is  supporting everyone fighting jihadist terrorists on both sides of the factions, which is resulting in all kinds of contradictions.  Thus, the U.S. is supporting Iranian-connected militants when they are fighting ISIS in Iraq, but opposing them when they are fighting moderate Arabs in Yemen. [Read more...]

Civil War photos online

The Library of Congress has acquired thousands of Civil War photographs and has put them online.  Here is a slide show sampling.  My favorites are from the Liljenquist Family collection of individual and family portraits., which the Library of Congress is making available freely, with no copyright restrictions.

These put a human face, literally, on history and on the Civil War, and I find them very moving.  (The custom was to have a picture taken in your uniform before you set off for war, knowing that you might never be coming back.  Some of the pictures of boys still in adolescence show a fierce bravado that is belied by their baby faces.  The pictures of the men with their wives and children show both courage and sadness.)  I post one after the jump.  (Notice the emotion in this formal pose in the way the husband and wife are holding onto each other’s hands.) [Read more...]

The sacrifice of Christians

Rev. Adam Roe, in the series on vocation at MissionWork, discusses the concept of “sacrifice” in the Lutheran confessions.  Unlike in Roman Catholicism, Holy Communion is not seen as a sacrifice, nor are pastors considered priests who offer up sacrifices.  And yet Christians are called to sacrifice, but not for the forgiveness of sins, since Christ, who is both our Priest and our Sacrifice, has accomplished the only sacrifice we need.  But the Apology of the Augsburg Confession does speak about the sacrifices that pastors and all Christians perform. [Read more...]

Big local government

Conservatives complain about Big Government, saying that huge, distant, super-powerful centralized government should often give way to decentralized state and local governments.  But what about when local governments do what big centralized government does?  That has become an issue in Texas. . . . [Read more...]


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