Top Lutheran stories of 2015

So what were the biggest stories or most important developments in confessional Lutheranism for 2015?  I have come up with 6, which I give after the jump.  We really need 10.  Can we come up with 4  more? [Read more…]

The Year that Nothing Worked

It’s been a rough year.  Bloomberg’s Lu Wang, referring specifically to economics and investing, has called 2015 The Year Nothing Worked.

Terrorism is back in force, with ISIS giving us nearly daily examples of unsettling, disillusioning cruelty.  That’s hard for humanists, optimists, and progressives to take, day in and day out.   The Taliban is resurgent in Afghanistan, making us feel that all of the sacrifice of our military men and women for the high goal of democracy in the Middle East may have been in vain.

Meanwhile, our government seems increasingly incompetent, and many of the candidates for the future seem to promise either more of the same, or to be even be worse.

Gideon Rachman of the London Financial Times says “the whole world is on edge.” He says that usually some country is optimistic and doing well.  But last year not only the United States but the new powerhouse China have been in the doldrums.  He blames not only economic uncertainty but a large scale reaction against governments and elites of every kind.  (His article is excerpted and linked after the jump.)

It is surely healthy for people to wake up to the incompetence of their big governments.  It’s even more healthy for people to wake up to the decadence of their cultural elites.  Higher education, with a few notable exceptions,  has largely turned into a self-parody, with childish political radicalism turning universities into centers of anti-intellectualism and Orwellian thought police.  The art world establishment seems paralyzed with angst and theorizing.  Even the popular arts are stagnant, repeating formulas and looking for something new without being able to find anything.  Our movies, for example, keep churning out sequels, rummaging through thrift shop comic book bins, and remaking films from more creative eras.

But now people as a whole are getting sick of all of this. That’s a good sign.  It really is darkest before the dawn.  When bad things in a culture are evident, a reaction sets in.  There will be no utopia, just different problems, but let’s pray that 2016 will be the beginning of a “dawn.” [Read more…]

This last week of the year

The last week of the year is a time to look back upon the previous year and forward to the year ahead.  We’ll be doing some of that here, culminating in New Year’s Eve, for our looks back, followed by New Year’s Day when we will make our predictions for 2016.

On December 31, we will look at the predictions we made on this blog on New Year’s Day 2015 to see who was the most prescient.  I can say that a cursory look at last year’s comments includes a remarkable and highly specific prediction that actually came true.  Now we can reward our winners with something a little more tangible.  I will announce the winner, and if he reports in to claim his prize and tell us how he did it, I am asking EVERYONE to give him the highest World Table rating!

On New Year’s Day, we will make our predictions for the coming year.  2016 is an election year, after all, so it is bound to be consequential and ripe for prognostication.  So be thinking about what you think will happen.  And with that huge incentive of World Table points, you will want to make a lot of predictions.  (IF World Table is still around next year, of course, which is a matter of prediction.)

Still praying for the souls of the Fuggers

There were the Robber Barons, the 1%, and those the Democrats demonize as “the rich.”  But they are Salvation Army bell ringers compared to Jakob Fugger, the 16th century money man who was one of the founders of the banking system and a prime mover in many of the royal schemes, shady investments, and bribery conspiracies in the late-Middle Ages and early Renaissance.

It was the Fuggers who lent the money used by the Archbishop of Mainz to bribe the Pope into appointing him to various church offices, with the three-way agreement that the loan would be paid back through the sale of indulgences in Germany.  A venture that led a certain monk to post 95 theses.

The Fugger fortune is long gone, but Jakob set up an endowment to provide housing for poor people, on the condition that they would pray each day for his soul’s release from Purgatory.  This is still going on!  The cost of the rent has not gone up for 500 years and comes to just $1.23 per month.  And the beneficiaries are still praying for him, which suggests that he must still be in Purgatory after 500 years. [Read more…]

Santa Claus, Confessor

St. Nicholas was the bishop of Myra back in the 4th century.  He has become one of the most popular saints among Roman Catholics and the Eastern Orthodox, the patron saint of sailors, children, prisoners, pawnbrokers, to name just a few.  He also mutated into the emblem of Christmas, Santa Claus.  (Say “Saint Nicholas” real fast.)

But what is the connection between the bishop of Myra and Christmas?  Stories about the saint supplying poor women’s dowries by putting money in stockings drying by the fire give us an explanation of the custom of hanging stockings for Santa to fill, but they don’t have a connection to Christmas, as such.

I think the connection is that the bishop was reportedly a member of the Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D., which affirmed the deity of Jesus Christ and authored the Nicene Creed.  A number of years ago, I wrote a piece for World Magazine about the role that St. Nicholas reportedly played at the Council of Nicaea, including slapping the heretic Arius who insisted that Jesus Christ was merely human and not divine.

The St. Nicholas Center has posted that column on its website, along with other supporting material and everything else you might like to know about St. Nicholas, including a forensic reconstruction of what he looked like. I also need to report that the St. Nicholas center has also posted the song parodies written by you Cranach commenters when we discussed my World column here.  Those songs, playing on the image of Santa Claus slapping heretics, were quite creative and funny.

After the jump is a fuller account of St. Nicholas at Nicaea, which I will then discuss in terms of our need to recast Santa Claus as a Confessor of the church. [Read more…]

Another explanation for the Bethlehem star

Bible scholar Colin R. Nicholl argues that the Star of Bethlehem was really a comet, a moving celestial object that was considered a type of star in ancient astronomy. [Read more…]


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X