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.

How a contemporary sees contemporary worship

Robert Burns prayed for the power “To see ourselves as others see us!” (To a  Louse). So I don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings here.  But it is surely helpful for a church trying to be contemporary to see how actual contemporaries are responding to their efforts.

Matt Walsh, a young guy of the sort that churches are trying to reach, speculates that the reason Christianity is allegedly in decline, according to that Pew study, is that it has become so boring.  But, in his telling, the boredom comes from the proliferation of contemporary worship, which, he says, in the course of making fun of it, drains Christianity of its transcendence, substance, and seriousness. [Read more...]

“The smartest human being” on sin and grace

More from  David Brooks, two interviews in which he talks about what he learned from St. Augustine, “the smartest human being I’ve ever encountered in any form.”  Specifically, that would his concept of sin as disordered love and the Christian concept of grace.

St. Augustine is, indeed, a brilliant thinker.  You don’t have to agree with him on every point–though he is one of the few theologians claimed both by Catholics and Protestants–but his writings have a magisterial logic, a psychological sensitivity,  and a startling depth of spiritual insight.  Luther, remember, was an Augustinian monk, and Augustine is noted for his emphasis, like that of the Reformers, on the grace of God.  In my view, he is more Platonic and thus ascetic than he should be.  Can any of you address the points on which Lutherans–as well as other traditions–agree and disagree with this church father?

[Read more...]

Biblical heroism

In the course of writing a searching new book entitled The Road to Character, New York Times columnist David Brooks decided that you can’t really think about moral ideas very well without the vocabulary that religions bring, even if you don’t believe them.  So he read all kinds of books, including Christian theology, including the works of St. Augustine.  Brooks is Jewish, but he sounds like he is getting close to Christianity.  Samples from an interview with Brooks after the jump. [Read more...]

Baptists who baptize infants

A Baptist minister has stirred controversy within his tradition by baptizing an infant.  Yet it has become a common practice to baptize children 5 years old, or even younger.  This all seems to be in the context of reconsidering what baptism is, that it is more than just a symbol.  (To be sure, one might think, “well, it’s just a symbol,” so what difference does it make?  But this seems to be something more, which we Lutherans can appreciate.)

After the jump, read the account of the pastor baptizing the baby, then read  a seminary president’s response. [Read more...]

How the KGB created Liberation Theology

Liberation Theology, which teaches that Christianity demands radical social and economic change, is a major movement in modern theology.  It has been especially influential in Latin America where it created alliances between Roman Catholics and Marxist revolutionaries.  Now a former Soviet intelligence agent says that Liberation Theology in its entirety, from its formulation to its promulgation, was a creation of the (atheist) KGB! [Read more...]


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