Lutheran conversion testimonies

Some may consider that phrase a contradiction in terms.  But a new book contains the stories of various people who converted to Christianity as proclaimed in Lutheranism.  It’s called Wittenberg Confessions: Testimonies of Converts to Confessional Lutheranism, by Jim Pierce, Edited by Elaine Gavin.  I mention it in particular because it includes accounts from some of the readers and commentators on this blog, such as author Jim Pierce (former atheist and just about everything else you could name) and Kelly Klages.  (If there are any others of you who contributed to this book, make yourself known!  If you aren’t in the book but have a similar “testimony,” feel free to tell about it in a comment on this post.)

You can buy  the book, from the wonderfully-named new publisher Blue Pomegranate Press, by clicking here.

Ayn Rand and the virtue of evil

Joe Carter tries to think what he ever saw in Ayn Rand, who despised Christianity and held that the only virtue is selfishness. He cites a new biography that details how bad she was, though at least consistent with her assumptions:

She announced that the world was divided between a small minority of Supermen who are productive and “the naked, twisted, mindless figure of the human Incompetent” who, like the Leninists, try to feed off them. He is “mud to be ground underfoot, fuel to be burned.” It is evil to show kindness to these “lice”: The “only virtue” is “selfishness.”She meant it.

Her diaries from that time, while she worked as a receptionist and an extra, lay out the Nietzschean mentality that underpins all her later writings. The newspapers were filled for months with stories about serial killer called William Hickman, who kidnapped a 12-year-old girl called Marion Parker from her junior high school, raped her, and dismembered her body, which he sent mockingly to the police in pieces. Rand wrote great stretches of praise for him, saying he represented “the amazing picture of a man with no regard whatsoever for all that a society holds sacred, and with a consciousness all his own. A man who really stands alone, in action and in soul. … Other people do not exist for him, and he does not see why they should.” She called him “a brilliant, unusual, exceptional boy,” shimmering with “immense, explicit egotism.” Rand had only one regret: “A strong man can eventually trample society under its feet. That boy [Hickman] was not strong enough.”

via Two biographies of Ayn Rand. – By Johann Hari – Slate Magazine.

Like Nietzsche, Rand held Christianity in contempt for its teachings about love, which encourages the weakness of compassion that allows the weak to survive, as opposed to helping them die out as they are supposed to.

A lot of conservatives, though, like her.  Why?

More thoughts on Anne Rice

Thanks for the good discussion on the weekend’s post about Anne Rice rejecting Christianity, while still saying that she believes in Christ. The comments include more quotations from her about what she means by that, as well as thought-provoking insights from all sides. I was heartened that she has apparently agreed to consider Rod Rosenbladt’s presentation “The Gospel for Those Broken by the Church” [see the sidebar on this blog for New Reformation Press].

I definitely think she is broken by the Church, in this sense. But in another sense I’m realizing that the Church, in the sense of actual churches, are not the ones defining Christianity in people’s minds. Instead, the phenomenon of the “parachurch”–all of the ministries and organizations and activities outside of local congregations–has taken on that role.

Anne Rice is a Roman Catholic. To take up her specific reasons for repudiating Christianity, Catholics are a major part of the base of the Democratic party, so they are hardly anti-Democrat. Catholics are pro-science to the point of accepting evolution. They are pro-life now to the point of pacifism. Yes, the Catholic Church teaches that homosexuality is a moral “disorder,” but many priests are gay. Feminism is rampant in many women’s religious orders. Yes, the Church rejects artificial birth control, but hardly any Catholics in the USA at least follow that.

The stances she is rejecting characterize conservative Protestants, but she has never been one of those. And actual conservative Protestant churches don’t always obsess about these issues on Sunday mornings. But their ecumenical cultural and political activism the rest of the week does. Yet THAT is what defines Christianity today.

The other irony is that she could find plenty of mainline liberal denominations that agree with her stances completely! The ELCA, for example. And yet she never even considers those as an alternative. That shows her integrity, recognizing that liberal Christianity has nothing to offer even to a liberal! (Why do you think that is?)

Anne Rice

Anne Rice, the author of literate vampire novels who embraced Christianity, now says that she is no longer a Christian:

I quit being a Christian. I’m out. In the name of Christ, I refuse to be anti-gay. I refuse to be anti-feminist. I refuse to be anti-artificial birth control. I refuse to be anti-Democrat. I refuse to be anti-secular humanism. I refuse to be anti-science. I refuse to be anti-life. In the name of Christ, I quit Christianity and being Christian. Amen.

“In the name of Christ”? In her books about Him, she affirms His deity and His redemptive acts. Does she no longer believe those things? How would her disagreements with other Christians on these issues mean that Christ is no longer God and Savior? And certainly many Christians are gay, feminist, Democrats, humanists, scientists, and use birth control (she is or was a Roman Catholic), though with differences from the secularists, who are most definitely not pro-life!

I actually had a touching correspondence with her when she “came out” as a Christian. I wrote about that and reviewed her book Christ the Lord. She responded, saying that I understood what she was trying to say exactly. So my heart hurts to hear that she is repudiating her faith.

What would you say to her?

HT: Webmonk

Bo Giertz’s new novel (revised)

As I posted a while back ago, our friend on this blog Bror Erickson has translated a book by the Swedish Christian novelist Bo Giertz, The Knights of Rhodes. In my review, I complained about the large number of typographical and other errors. After corresponding with Bror, I agreed to correct the mistakes. So now, available on Amazon.com is a NEW edition of the novel. This is the one you need to get. I’ll repeat my review to remind you why:

Bo Giertz (1905-1998) was a confessional, orthodox Lutheran bishop in the Church of Sweden. He was also a notable novelist. Many of you have doubtless read Hammer of God, about three generations of pastors, each facing the various challenges to the Gospel of each era. That novel has been a life-changer for many readers.

Now, at long last, another Giertz novel has been translated into English, The Knights of Rhodes.

It’s a historical novel about the Knights Hospitaller and the siege of Rhodes. The Hospitallers started as a hospital order–which remained a part of their ministry–but they became a military order during the Crusades. Think monks–complete with vows of celibacy, poverty, and obedience, as well as performing the daily liturgies–plus swords and cannons. This novel is set in the 16th century, with the knights in their formidable citadel on the island of Rhodes having to face the Turkish empire under the young sultan Suleiman, beginning his plan to conquer Europe.

The characters come alive and stay in the mind. The battle sequences are thrilling. The spiritual complexities are fascinating.

The Knights of Rhodes is not as pre-occupied with theological issues as Hammer of God, at least not on the surface. And yet, even this story of Roman Catholic monastic knights is full of what Luther was preaching about the same time as the Turkish invasion. The characters have piety of various kinds, but in a climate of sin, violence, betrayals, and the competition of a triumphant Islam, they need to discover Jesus and the Theology of the Cross.

Not only all of this, but the translator is our own Bror Erickson, frequent commenter on this blog. Let’s give it the Amazon bomb treatment, buying it up and advancing its sales ranking (currently in the 800,000s) to attract other people’s attention to it.

Buy it by clicking the links and this blog will get a cut of the proceeds, which will go towards the expenses run up by this little venture  (paying for the server, the software, etc.).


Maltese Cross

Feats of memory

Learn seven lines a day. . .

The steady degradation of our mental faculties as we age has been documented in depressing detail. If you’re over 30, you’re losing it—the only question is how fast.

So it’s nice when a study comes along suggesting that people post-50 are capable of remarkable mental feats. Take 74-year-old John Basinger. When he was 58, he decided on a lark to see if he could memorize Milton’s Paradise Lost. The whole thing. All 60,000-plus words. It took him nine years, but he pulled it off and has even recited it in public.

That takes three days. It’s a long poem.

Researchers wanted to discover Basinger’s secret and also how well he really knew the poem. Turns out, he memorized the poem in small segments—about seven lines a day (this is consistent with other research on what the immediate memory can hold). And it wasn’t just rote memorization: Basinger was attempting to comprehend the motivations of the characters, to gain a “deep, conceptual understanding of the poem.” He tried to connect with it emotionally.

The researchers tested his accuracy by prompting him with two lines from the poem and asking him to recite the next ten. They found that he made few errors and, when he did, they were usually errors of omission.

He’s not some memory superhero, though. Basinger has the same memory troubles that annoy most seniors (and plenty of us non-seniors, too). He forgets names, can’t find his keys, etc.  He’s pretty much normal for his age, except for the memorizing-all-of-Paradise-Lost thing.

via Memorizing Milton – Percolator – The Chronicle of Higher Education.


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