“The light shines in the darkness”

How fitting that we commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ around the time of the Winter Solstice, when the day is at its shortest and the night is at its longest.  At this darkest time of the year, we celebrate Christ’s coming.  Just as He comes at the darkest points of our lives.  (This is also why lights at night are key Christmas symbols.)  As St. John says, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

After the jump, the Christmas story according to the Gospel of John.   Mark begins with the start of Christ’s ministry.  Matthew begins with His birth to Mary and Joseph.  Luke begins with His conception by the Virgin Mary.  John begins where Genesis begins, “In the beginning.”



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A book on why we should trust the Bible

Trevor's book on the BibleThere are four more shopping days until Christmas, time (especially if you have Amazon Prime with free two-day shipping) to buy for someone who needs it Trevor Sutton’s new book Why Should I Trust the Bible?

Trevor is the author of another good book,  Being Lutheran.  He is a young pastor and an excellent, enjoyable-to-read writer.  (I’m going to be collaborating with him on a project–more on that later.) This book takes on the confusions, untruths, and half-truths that undermine confidence in the Scriptures.  It makes a strong positive case that the Bible is a unique book whose foundation is Jesus and which is utterly reliable.  This work of lively apologetics will connect with the young and the old, the faithful and the questioning.

I especially like the organization of the book, which breaks down the different issues (the charge that the Bible is myth, that it is full of errors and inconsistencies, that the canon was an imposition of power, that the translations are unreliable, etc.).  It deals with each objection thoroughly.  At the end of each chapter is an excursus that looks at the issue in terms of another work of literature (The Epic of Gilgamesh, The Gettysburg Address, Shakespeare’s history plays, etc.), showing how the Bible comes across better.

After the jump, more description from Amazon. [Read more…]

Mary and the divine inversion

256px-Fra_Angelico_046In discussing why the Virgin Birth of Christ is important, James A. Rogers (Texas A&M professor and LCMS member) cites Mary as an example of the “divine inversion.”  That is, the way God turns upside down what we would expect.  This theme, which Mary herself celebrates in the Magnificat, runs throughout the Bible, culminating in the Cross.  Here is how Prof. Rogers concludes his reflections:

The Virgin Birth, like the Cross itself, confounds what we think we know; it confounds our belief that power, whether human power or the brute force of nature, prevails in the world. . . .A virgin giving birth. A king—the King—lying in a manger. A dead God on a stick. These, along with the many other inversions in the Bible, both big and small, promise the possibility of a different world, a world in which God inverts the natural order of things, including the natural of the human world.

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Hotels without Gideon Bibles

Bible_bom_hotel_rmThe Gideons do great work in distributing Bibles.  For many decades, virtually every hotel room had a Gideon Bible on the nightstand or in a drawer.  But today, less than half do.

A survey has found that only 46% of American hotel rooms include religious material.  Ten years ago, nearly three-quarters did.

Of course, what the Christian Gideons did, representatives of other religions did.  Hotels that have Bibles in the rooms often also have Books of Mormon.  I suspect that the decline of hotel Bibles has less to do with irreligion than with the abundance of religions and with hotel managers’ fear of offending against the canons of religious diversity.

Donald Trump’s hotel in Washington does have Bibles. But they come with a printed note saying that “if you want to continue your spiritual journey,” the hotel staff will give you a copy of the Bhagavad Gita, Talmud, or Quran.

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“Even if they are fools, they shall not go astray”

camino-santiago-1180770_1280More prophecies of the coming of Christ for our Advent contemplation:  Isaiah 35, yesterday’s Old Testament reading.  I give the chapter after the jump.  It’s about how God “will come and save you,” and what this will mean for “the redeemed,” those “ransomed by the Lord.”  This includes those who are weak, infirm, and “anxious.”  I take special comfort from verse 8:  “even if they are fools, they shall not go astray.”
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Red Letter Christians

bible-1136784_1920Tony Campolo and some other liberal evangelicals have started a movement they call “Red Letter Christians.”  The term comes from the convention in many editions of the Bible to print the words of Jesus in red.

Red Letter Christians believe that Christianity should be about following the words of Jesus, rather than getting involved in theological disputes, culture war issues, and right wing politics.  Rather, followers of the words of Jesus will be advocates for the poor, promote tolerance, and be “counter-cultural.”

Read the descriptions and the Value Statement from the Red Letter Christian website.  Then consider questions like these:  Do the words of Jesus support liberal politics any more than they support conservative politics?  Do the red letters in the Bible really promote all of these values?  Today, aren’t the conservatives the ones who are “counter-cultural,” with liberals following the cultural trends?  Doesn’t Jesus say some things that go against this social gospel?  What are the theological problems with lifting out the words of Jesus at the expense of the rest of the Bible? [Read more…]