Packers/Bears; Steelers/Jets

The playoffs have gotten very interesting, especially for us Packer fans. Green Bay utterly destroyed top-seeded Atlanta. They never even had to punt! The Packers seem like a relentless machine. And now they will play their division arch-rivals the Chicago Bears, who defeated all of the ex-Packers in Seattle, with the prize a trip to the Super Bowl. Those teams both know each other very, very well. They split the two games they played this season, the last one being a must-win for the Packers to get into the playoffs. Next week’s contest should be a truly good game.

In the AFC, the volatile Jets beat the vaunted Patriots. The Steelers beat the Ravens, but they didn’t look as good as the Packers looked.

I welcome your analysis, projections, and predictions!

The Incarnation is not enough

Yet another good sermon from Pastor Douthwaite:

Last week we heard that after John baptized Jesus in the Jordan River, the heavens opened, the Spirit of God descended upon Jesus in the form of a dove, and a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matt 3:17).

This week, we hear what John did and proclaimed after that. When he now sees Jesus, he points to Him and proclaims: “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”

This is, perhaps, not what we would expect. For it would, perhaps, make more sense if, after the voice from heaven identified Jesus as God’s beloved Son, John would go around proclaiming: “Behold the Son of God!” But he doesn’t. It’s Lamb of God for John. That’s how he unwraps Jesus for us. And today I want you to consider why that is.

But I’ll not leave you in suspense. I’ll tell you straight out, now, why this is: because just knowing that God, who is almighty, is here, is not necessarily good news. Because why has He come? Is this Son of God here to redeem or to revenge? Is He here to comfort or to condemn? Power and might can work both ways, you know. And so John pointing to Jesus and proclaiming: “Behold the Son of God” tells us who Jesus is, but nothing more.

For the fact is, if you just know God as almighty, you don’t really know God and you will be filled with questions. Like, if you are almighty, then why the shootings in Arizona, God? Why the floods in Australia and Brazil, God? Why the troubles in my life, God? If you are almighty, why don’t you stop these things? Or maybe you’re not really almighty at all? Or if you are, then maybe you don’t really love us, or love me, or care for me, or want to help me. Maybe we can’t really count on you.

For who, then, is God, really? An unknown and unknowable God is a frightening God. Is He the God of sunny days or of hurricanes? Is He the God of spring flowers or earthquakes? Is He the God of love or of war? Which Son of God is here?

Or think of it like walking down a dark alley, and you know someone is there with you – you can hear the heavy footsteps, it’s someone big. But who is it? You cannot see them or know their intentions. It’s frightening. . . . But if they come into the light to be with you as a friend, a helper, a protector, that is good news. That is what you need. And then there is peace.

Well that is, John wants you to know, the God you have. Jesus is God the Son, yes; but even more. He is the Lamb of God, the friend of sinners, companion of the downcast, lifter of the low. He has come to be your Saviour. It’s Lamb of God for John, that you might know who Jesus really is – that the Son is the Lamb and the Lamb is the Son, and that in Him we see how God does love you, care for you, and help you. That He has come to lay down His life for you, and give you peace. He has come to BE your peace, by taking away the sin of the world. By taking away your sin.

via St. Athanasius Lutheran Church: Epiphany 2 Sermon.

The Bible in one sentence

Dane Ortlund asked a number of prominent evangelical pastors and writers to sum up the Bible in one sentence.  Here is a sampling (see more at the link):

Dan Block:

God was so covenantally committed to the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him may have eternal life!

Craig Blomberg:

God is in the process of recreating the universe which has been corrupted by sin and has made it possible for all those and only those who follow Jesus to be a part of the magnificent, eternal community that will result.

Darrell Bock:

The Bible tells how the loving Creator God restored a lost humanity and cosmos through reestablishing his rule through Jesus Christ and the provision of life to His honor.

Mark Dever:

God has made promises to bring His people to Himself and He is fulfilling them all through Christ.

Kevin DeYoung:

A holy God sends his righteous Son to die for unrighteous sinners so we can be holy and live happily with God forever.

Zack Eswine:

Apprenticing with Jesus to become human again.

John Frame:

God glorifies himself in the redemption of sinners.

Scott Hafemann:

The Triune God is the beginning, middle, and end of everything, ‘for from him (as Creator) and through him (as Sustainer and Redeemer) and to him (as Judge) are all things’ (Rom 11:36).

David Helm:

Jesus is the promised Savior-King.

Paul House:

The movement in history from creation to new creation through the redemptive work of Father, Son, and Spirit who saves and changes corrupted people and places for his glory and their good.

Gordon Hugenberger:

The message of the Bible in one sentence is that genuine truth, unlike every human philosophy, is far too luxuriant, too enthralling, too personal, too all-encompassing, too sovereign, and too life-changing to be reducible to one sentence (or, as Einstein once put it, the challenge is to ‘make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler’).

via Strawberry-Rhubarb Theology: What’s the Message of the Bible in One Sentence?.

Some of these are pretty good, but two things struck me:  (1)  How unevangelical many of these are. That is, how they emphasize not the Gospel (evangel), but the Law, putting the focus on our being or becoming.

(2) How these different takes on Scripture often reveal a specific theological perspective.  Evangelicals often maintain that they are taking their beliefs straight from the Bible, without needing a theological framework, but scratch the surface and you will tend to find a specific theology at work.  Not that that’s bad, since I believe one needs a specific theology.  In fact, this exercise shows that theology is inevitable.  We say we believe the Bible.  It’s legitimate to ask next, “What do you believe the Bible says?”  And that’s your theology.  We Lutherans answer that in a whole book of confessions rather than one sentence, but the principle is the same.

Can you do better?  Sum up the Bible–or the message of the Bible– in one sentence.  Or, if you consider that too reductionistic, comment on these other attempts.

Why democracy is in trouble

Herbert London, a conservative academic drawing on Plato and others, gives six reasons why he thinks American democracy is in trouble:

First, and perhaps most notably, a democratic republic depends on an educated populace and adherence to certain norms of behavior. It is evident, however, that Americans have a far greater interest in amusing themselves than in educating themselves. Even the extraordinary number of college graduates reveals little about educational attainment since so many are trained in incapacity. Many colleges in the United States are only faintly related to education at all, and many that purport to train simply instill an ideological canon on their students.

In a recent ISI survey on civil knowledge, a majority of college graduates could not name the three branches of government. . . .

Second, a government that assumes enlarged authority over the economy can browbeat those in the private sector to accede to its desire. . . .

Third, the power of demagoguery is enhanced by a press corps that engages in cheerleading. . . .

Fourth, as Juvenal once wrote, those in power want to remain in power. In order to do so, they will make any gesture, compromise any principle, and purloin any aspect of the economy in order to retain their positions. Acting in what is reputed to be the public interest, a class of politicians acts to build constituencies for reelection. The public welfare is mere cover for actions that lead to incumbency.

Fifth, if self-restraint does not exist, external restraint must be imposed to assure domestic tranquility. At issue is the moral basis for civic cohesion, namely, families, churches, associations, and schools, which are in disarray and cannot provide the mediating structures between the individual and the state. As a consequence, government is obliged to fill the moral vacuum playing a role that was not intended in a democratic republic.

Sixth, a democracy cannot work if the system of taxation is used to take from the productive elements of society and give to the unproductive sector.

via Pajamas Media » Democracy Imperiled?.

Is he right?  What’s the alternative?

If Democracy is no longer possible in this country,  who should we pick for King to get our hereditary monarchy started?  Who would be our aristocrats?

Maybe the Queen of England would take us back, though she’d need to dismantle democracy in her country. Or maybe we could just complete our sale to China.

Seriously, some of these six reasons to worry seem to be due to a lack of democracy, not its collapse.  Can some of these be remedied through a proper exercise of democracy?

Forbidden descriptions

Now pundits are drawing back from their initial claims that Sarah Palin and company were responsible for the Tucson shootings, since it’s evident that the gunman Jared Loughner was simply mentally ill and never paid attention to political rhetoric.  But now they are attacking Palin for describing the way she was blamed for the killings as a “blood libel.”

That phrase specifically refers to the old anti-semitic libel that Jews mix the blood of Christian children in their matzoh balls.  How dare Palin compare criticism of her with the pograms of the Jews, especially in the context of the shooting of a Jewish congresswoman!  Oh, how insensitive!  Oh, how hateful!

The phrase was first used in this context by conservative blogger Glenn Reynolds, aka “Instapundit.”  It has also been used in other contexts and for other meanings without attracting condemnation.

So do you think “blood libel” can only apply to what Jews have been falsely accused of?

Some say that “holocaust” should only refer to what happened to the Jew, though it seems acceptable to speak of “nuclear holocaust.”  Some say the same for  “genocide,” but it is still used for attempts to wipe out other ethnic groups.

Should “inquisition” be off limits, out of sensitivity to Lutherans and Jews, the two main targets of that persecution?

Is “witch hunt” insensitive to Wiccans?

Should we reserve “purge” for the victims of Communism?

Can you think of other potentially problematic terms, if we are going to go this route?

Sarah Palin’s effort to defuse controversy backfires with ‘blood libel’ comment.

Theological bankruptcy

Christianity Today has a thoughtful editorial on the bankruptcy of the Crystal Cathedral and what that means (or should mean) for contemporary Christianity:

This past October, the megachurch prototype of the late 20th century filed for bankruptcy. A 24 percent drop in donations and a $50-$100 million debt owed to more than 550 creditors forced the Crystal Cathedral to file. It was a poignant moment in the history of modern evangelicalism.

Robert H. Schuller’s famous Crystal Cathedral was built on a foundation of self-esteem. In a 1984 interview with Christianity Today, Schuller said that when he came to Garden Grove, California, in 1955, he asked himself, “What human condition exists here that I can have a mission to?” His answer was “emotional hunger.” “Because of that,” he said, “we have developed our present ministry.” . . .

Schuller was tapping into themes of the human potential movement, the rage in the 1960s and ’70s, when Abraham Maslow’s theories deemed self-actualization the highest expression of human life. . . .

It’s like building a state-of-the-art structure. Technology moves at such a rapid pace that as soon as you move into the new building, you immediately find yourself stuck with an architecture that is already technologically dated, if only in small degrees at first. It isn’t long before another developer announces plans for something even more state-of-the-art.

Today both the Crystal Cathedral and the theology that undergird it seem woefully inadequate buildings in which to house the gospel. In an age deeply sensitive to energy conservation, a glass house of worship is a sinful extravagance. In a culture increasingly addicted to the self, the gospel of self-esteem is clearly part of the problem. In short, the Schuller enterprise is filing for bankruptcy on more than one front.

Some are tempted to hit the man while he is down, but this is unwise. Robert Schuller is not the problem—contemporary evangelicalism is. Schuller was only leading the parade of those who believe they are responsible for making the gospel relevant. The lesson is not that Schuller got it wrong or that his theology is out-of-date; it is not that we just need to find a better, more current point of cultural contact. The lesson is that our attempts to find and exploit a point of cultural contact inevitably end in bankruptcy. . . .

We must repress every fearful thought that suggests that making the gospel relevant and meaningful rests on our shoulders. The mystery of why and how people come to faith is just that—ultimately a mystery.  . . .

In fact, it is not only the listener who is deaf and blind to the gospel. The church is equally handicapped, especially regarding what will “work” to achieve genuine conversion. But—God be praised—we have a God who makes the deaf to hear and the blind to see! In every age and every culture, we are wise to trust the God who is rich in mercy and is able to accomplish through his Word that which he intends.

via Cracks in the Crystal Cathedral | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction.

It’s significant that Christianity Today is saying this, since that magazine has not been all that critical of the various church growth movements–each with their attempt to be culturally relevant–up to now.  Do you think this heralds the end of the megachurch church-marketing concept?