God from above vs. God from below

I’ve started working through the Christian Year of Grace by Johann Spangenberg, a contemporary of Luther who, as a pastor and educator, wanted to provide laypeople a guide to help with the devotional reading of the newly-available Scriptures.  He took the appointed Scripture readings for each Sunday, then–as a classical educator trained in dialectic–offered questions and answers that take the reader deeply into the riches of these texts.

After the jump, I’ll give you an excerpt from his treatment of Romans 11:33-36, the Epistle reading for Trinity Sunday:  “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God:  how incomprehensible are His judgments, how unsearchable His ways!  For who has known the mind of the Lord?” [Read more...]

Asserting vs. Explaining

On Trinity Sunday yesterday, I worshipped at the church of my son-in-law, the Rev. Ned Moerbe, who made a useful distinction between “asserting” and “explaining.” [Read more...]

So should we baptize machines?

The hype about artificial intelligence has some speculating that at some point a computer might have what we might call a soul.  So some theologians are wondering if machines advance to that point, should they be evangelized?  Should they be baptized?

Thomas D. Williams writes about this line of reasoning and why it is unlikely that machines would be able to become Christians.  In addition to “artificial intelligence” meaning something completely different from the human ability to reason, machines would not have inherited original sin so would not be in need of saving (the AI apocalypse crowd may be projecting human-style sinfulness on inanimate objects), and Jesus, according to the Athanasian Creed, came “for us men and for our salvation,” not for animals, much less for machines.  See Williams’s argument after the jump. [Read more...]

You Might Be a Lutheran If…

The invaluable Anthony Sacramone has put together a mashup of theological culture and Jeff Foxworthy, resulting in a list of 20 descriptors entitled “You Might be a Lutheran if. . . .”  My favorite:  “You think the pope is the antichrist but still a Christian.”  After the jump, the first part of the list and a link to the rest.

My challenge: Add to them.  (Bonus:  Explain Mr. Sacramone’s more obscure references.)

My other challenge:  Come up with something similar for other Christian traditions, preferably one you are a member of.  (“You might be a Catholic if. . .”; “You might be a Baptist if. . . .”; “You might be a Calvinist if. . . .”; You might be Orthodox if. . . .”; “You might be a theological liberal if. . . .”; etc., etc.)

[Read more...]

New baptisms for the transgendered?

At a baptism, the baptized person is given a name.  That’s not all that happens, but that’s what a lot of people associate with the rite.  So in the Church of England, some transgendered individuals have asked to be re-baptized, so as to have the Church affirm their new name and new identity.  So far, a sympathetic vicar decided not to repeat  the baptism but has devised a new liturgy to bestow the new name.  The Church of England is discussing how to handle this. [Read more...]

Holy Spirit day

Yesterday was Pentecost, commemorating the gift of the Holy Spirit.   I think part of the religious problem today is that when people imagine God, they picture the Deist god, an entity above and beyond this world, who looks down on it all from afar.  But the Christian God is very near to us.  He is the one in whom we live and move and have our being.  He became incarnate–a tangible human being– in Jesus Christ, who took into Himself the world’s evil and its suffering.  Then He ascended back into the Trinity, but He promised to be with us always, even to the end of the age.  And so He is really present–bodily–in the sacrament of Holy Communion.  He has also sent us the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, to be our helper, our comforter, and the giver of life, bringing us to faith through God’s Word and preserving us in that faith, indwelling us so that we are nothing less than Temples of the Holy Spirit.

Thus, faith is not merely the acceptance of God’s existence, as if He were merely another fact in the universe, which is again something like the Deists and their followers thought of Him.  Rather, faith is a gift of the Holy Spirit, something those of us who have it can hardly help.  It was formed in us by the Holy Spirit working through Baptism and our hearing and reading and being impacted by God’s Word.  So have a happy Pentecost, the season that lasts for the rest of the church year, and revel in God’s nearness.


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