Birther certificate

President Obama has released his birth certificate, showing that he was, in fact, born in Hawaii and is thus constitutionally eligible to be President.

One would think this would put the birther theories to rest, but already it appears that they are unfalsifiable, that no evidence will satisfy the true believers that President Obama is not an American.

See this for a closeup of the certificate: Will Release Of Obama’s Purported Birth Certificate Give Rise To New “Certer” Movement? | The Smoking Gun.

Those of you who had your doubts, does this satisfy you?  If not, what would?

The Royal Wedding

The future king of England, Prince William, is getting married to the future queen, presently the commoner Catherine Middleton.  This will happen really early in the morning, American time, on Friday in Westminster Abbey.

Now Republicans believe in a republic and Democrats believe in democracy.  But do any of you still feel the primal tug of monarchy?  If you are interested in this wedding, please tell us why.

The Royal Wedding.

Preserving the Union

In a review of Robert Redford’s new movie The Conspirator, about the plot to kill Lincoln, Ann Hornaday makes an interesting point, that one of the major patriotic ideals for which many Americans died in the Civil War–namely, the Union–is nearly always denigrated in movies and has faded from the American consciousness:

As University of Virginia history professor Gary Gallagher gracefully proves in his book “Causes Won, Lost and Forgotten,” about how popular culture has shaped ideas about the Civil War, the preservation of the Union has never been deemed worth valorizing by filmmakers, who have historically been more drawn to Lost Cause romanticism or self-flattering stories that emphasize emancipation of enslaved people or the reconciliation of the white South and white North. (At one point in “The Conspirator,” noting the higher causes they both fought for, Surratt tells Aiken, “We’re the same,” a classic reconciliationist elision of the myriad ways the two sides weren’t the same.)

Considering the depiction of white Union soldiers in such late-20th-century movies as “Glory” and “Dances With Wolves,” Gallagher writes, “recent Civil War films fail almost completely to convey any sense of what the Union Cause meant to millions of northern citizens. More than that, they often cast the U.S. military, a military force that saved the republic and destroyed slavery, in a decidedly negative, post-Vietnam light.”

Replace “post-Vietnam” with “post-Iraq” and you get a pretty good description of how the U.S. military is portrayed in “The Conspirator.” Rather than a principle worth fighting for, or a fragile democracy still vulnerable to dead-enders who would reignite the war, the Union is painted as the nest that hatched the egg of an overweening state and arrogant abuse of power. Hollywood may be where Confederates are buried in their onetime capital, but for moviegoers, it’s still the place where the Union Cause goes to die.

via Robert Redford’s ‘The Conspirator’ and the lost Union cause – The Washington Post.

The review cites the anti-government sentiment of both the left and the right for denigrating the Union cause.  But surely our national union is more than just government and can be embraced by those who believe in a limited government. The Constitution was put together to form “a more perfect union.”  Does anyone today really want us to exist in separate states as separate countries?  Can we recover the love of all of these states and all of these different people coming together into the Union?  Where does the ideal of the Union manifest itself in today’s love of country?  Or is there no longer a place for it?

Evangelicalism and Pietism

The noted Christian historian Mark Noll says that a revolution has taken place in our understanding of the history of American evangelicalism.  Citing the scholarship of British historian W. R. Ward, who died recently, Noll says that the origins of American evangelicalism are now understood to lie not in Puritanism or frontier revivals but in 17th century German Pietism:

Never from within the Anglo-American community of historians working on the modern history of Christianity has there been such an encompassing challenge to received historiography, nor such a well-documented appeal to reorient evangelical history away from the narrow precincts of the North Atlantic to the broad plains of Central Europe. The challenge that Ward’s scholarship mounted for the rest of us very ordinary historians was extraordinary. Ward’s achievement provided what not even German scholars have attempted, which is a general interpretation of the history of evangelicalism from within the standpoint of German history and German historical scholarship.

The Central European roots of evangelical religion have changed perceptions of evangelical origins in at least five ways. First, by situating evangelical history against the backdrop of 17th-century European political history, Ward demonstrated that distinctly evangelical beliefs and practices emerged in response to political pressure from powerful states, such as those in the Habsburg empire, or powerful state-churches, both Protestant and Catholic. What he summarized as “the almost universal history of revival as resistance to assimilation” led Ward to Central European beginnings for such essential evangelical themes as the opposition of “true Christianity” to formulaic, systematic, or imposed orthodoxies; and to small-group enclaves as the necessary nurturing medium in which “true Christianity” could flourish. By showing how the political power of nation-states and state-churches played a defining role in the earliest evangelical movements, he showed all scholars the often covert political protests found in almost all evangelical movements of the 17th and 18th centuries, and probably later as well.

Second, Ward insisted on the foundational significance of 17th-century events and circumstances for evangelical history. By so doing he made a convincing case that accounts of Anglo-American evangelicalism are necessarily stunted if they do not include figures like Johann Arndt, Jakob Böhme, and Pierre Poiret (who are almost never mentioned) as well as those like Philip Jakob Spener and August Hermann Francke (who occasionally appear as mere anticipations of what came later).

By insisting on the importance of 17th-century politics and 17th-century European religious history for all later evangelical history, Ward, thirdly, also showed how necessary it is to connect events in the 18th century back to the era of the Reformation and Catholic Reformation. Reformers like Spener returned to Luther for inspiration; in him Spener and like-minded Pietists discovered precedents that would come to mark all evangelicals. Even more, Ward showed that complex lines of influence continued to link mystically minded Catholics and pietistically inclined Protestants straight through the 17th and 18th centuries, and that those links can be best explained by common patterns of reaction to the orthodox state-church establishments that defined European religion after the Reformation.

Fourth, Ward insisted that reforming, revivalistic, anti-statist, and small-group Protestantism was always and everywhere a pan-European phenomenon governed minimally, if at all, by national and linguistic boundaries.

via Rewriting the History of Evangelicalism | Books and Culture.

 

Today the Civil War started 150 years ago

Today, April 12, is the 150th anniversary of the fall of Ft. Sumter, which officially began the Civil War in 1861.

Civil War Trust: Civil War Sesquicentennial Home.

That’s really not long ago, in historical terms.  The lifetime of two old men.  What a tragedy, certainly the lowest point of American history.  With what zeal Americans on both sides slaughtered each other.  Our bloodiest war was with each other.  What a scandal was slavery in this land of the free, and what a sacrifice it took to end it.

The Christian equivalent of the Dead Sea Scrolls?

 

the most ancient Christian texts

 

Archaeologists have discovered some 70 little books with lead pages that may be the earliest Christian texts, dating from shortly after the time of Christ.  Interestingly, they seem to have been made by Jewish Christians–being written in ancient Hebrew, depicting both a Menorah and a Cross, and including a stylized map of Jerusalem, outside of which is drawn a T shaped cross and an empty tomb.

Most of the writing is in code, though, so it isn’t  decipherable, at least not yet.  From the BBC:

They could be the earliest Christian writing in existence, surviving almost 2,000 years in a Jordanian cave. They could, just possibly, change our understanding of how Jesus was crucified and resurrected, and how Christianity was born.

A group of 70 or so “books”, each with between five and 15 lead leaves bound by lead rings, was apparently discovered in a remote arid valley in northern Jordan somewhere between 2005 and 2007. . . .

The director of the Jordan’s Department of Antiquities, Ziad al-Saad, says the books might have been made by followers of Jesus in the few decades immediately following his crucifixion.

“They will really match, and perhaps be more significant than, the Dead Sea Scrolls,” says Mr Saad.

“Maybe it will lead to further interpretation and authenticity checks of the material, but the initial information is very encouraging, and it seems that we are looking at a very important and significant discovery, maybe the most important discovery in the history of archaeology.”

The texts might have been written in the decades following the crucifixion

They seem almost incredible claims – so what is the evidence?

The books, or “codices”, were apparently cast in lead, before being bound by lead rings.

Their leaves – which are mostly about the size of a credit card – contain text in Ancient Hebrew, most of which is in code.

If the relics are of early Christian origin rather than Jewish, then they are of huge significance.

One of the few people to see the collection is David Elkington, a scholar of ancient religious archaeology who is heading a British team trying to get the lead books safely into a Jordanian museum.

He says they could be “the major discovery of Christian history”, adding: “It’s a breathtaking thought that we have held these objects that might have been held by the early saints of the Church.”

He believes the most telling evidence for an early Christian origin lies in the images decorating the covers of the books and some of the pages of those which have so far been opened.

Mr Elkington says the relics feature signs that early Christians would have interpreted as indicating Jesus, shown side-by-side with others they would have regarded as representing the presence of God.

“It’s talking about the coming of the messiah,” he says.

“In the upper square [of one of the book covers] we have the seven-branch menorah, which Jews were utterly forbidden to represent because it resided in the holiest place in the Temple in the presence of God.

“So we have the coming of the messiah to approach the holy of holies, in other words to get legitimacy from God.”

Philip Davies, Emeritus Professor of Old Testament Studies at Sheffield University, says the most powerful evidence for a Christian origin lies in plates cast into a picture map of the holy city of Jerusalem.

“As soon as I saw that, I was dumbstruck. That struck me as so obviously a Christian image,” he says.

“There is a cross in the foreground, and behind it is what has to be the tomb [of Jesus], a small building with an opening, and behind that the walls of the city. There are walls depicted on other pages of these books too and they almost certainly refer to Jerusalem.”

It is the cross that is the most telling feature, in the shape of a capital T, as the crosses used by Romans for crucifixion were.

“It is a Christian crucifixion taking place outside the city walls,” says Mr Davies.

Margaret Barker, an authority on New Testament history, points to the location of the reported discovery as evidence of Christian, rather than purely Jewish, origin.

“We do know that on two occasions groups of refugees from the troubles in Jerusalem fled east, they crossed the Jordan near Jericho and then they fled east to very approximately where these books were said to have been found,” she says.

“[Another] one of the things that is most likely pointing towards a Christian provenance, is that these are not scrolls but books. The Christians were particularly associated with writing in a book form rather than scroll form, and sealed books in particular as part of the secret tradition of early Christianity.”

The Book of Revelation refers to such sealed texts.

Another potential link with the Bible is contained in one of the few fragments of text from the collection to have been translated.

It appears with the image of the menorah and reads “I shall walk uprightly”, a sentence that also appears in the Book of Revelation.

While it could be simply a sentiment common in Judaism, it could here be designed to refer to the resurrection.

via BBC News – Jordan battles to regain ‘priceless’ Christian relics.

HT: Joe Carter


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