Health Care bill negotiations

Senators are negotiating what kind of health care bill will be put up for a vote. As things stand right now, the government-run public option is out, but abortion funding is back in. Anything the Senate passes, though, will have to be further negotiated with the House of Representatives, whose bill has both.

Writing on the Shroud of Turin?

A researcher has found traces of writing on the Shroud of Turin that, she says, provides evidence of its authenticity as the burial cloth of Christ. From Faint Shroud of Turin text proves artifact real, book says:

A Vatican researcher claims a nearly invisible text on the Shroud of Turin proves the authenticity of the artifact revered as Jesus' burial cloth.

The claim made in a new book by historian Barbara Frale drew immediate skepticism from some scientists, who maintain the shroud is a medieval forgery.

Ms. Frale, a researcher at the Vatican archives, said Friday that she used computers to enhance images of faintly written words in Greek, Latin and Aramaic scattered across the shroud.

She asserts the words include the name "Jesus Nazarene" in Greek, proving the text could not be of medieval origin because no Christian at the time, even a forger, would have labeled Jesus a Nazarene without referring to his divinity.

The shroud bears the figure of a crucified man, complete with blood seeping out of nailed hands and feet, and believers say Christ's image was recorded on the linen fibers at the time of his resurrection.

The fragile artifact, owned by the Vatican, is kept locked in a special protective chamber in Turin's cathedral and is rarely shown.

Skeptics point out that radiocarbon dating conducted in 1988 determined it was made in the 13th or 14th century.

While faint letters scattered around the face on the shroud were seen decades ago, serious researchers dismissed them due to the test's results, Ms. Frale told the Associated Press.

But when she cut out the words from photos of the shroud and showed them to experts, they concurred the writing style was typical of the Middle East in the first century – Jesus' time.

She believes the text was written on a document by a clerk and glued to the shroud over the face so the body could be identified by relatives and buried properly. Metals in the ink used at the time may have allowed the writing to transfer to the linen, Ms. Frale claimed.

She said the text also partially confirms the Gospels' account of Jesus' final moments. A fragment in Greek that can be read as "removed at the ninth hour" may refer to Christ's time of death reported in the holy texts, she said.

I take no position on the authenticity of the Shroud, and agree that we are to believe through the Word only. And yet, I first read about the artifact at a key time in my life, and it reminded me (then in the liberal church of my childhood) that Christianity is not about some vague, cloudy abstractions but about tangible, historical realities. So I am still interested. But defenders of the Shroud need to answer those radio-carbon dates. I would add that if there is writing in Greek on the cloth, that it would be unlikely to have been put there by a European medieval forger, since the Greek language was not known in the West in the 13th and 14th centuries.

Those Christians caused the economy to crash!

Throughout history, societies facing a crisis have blamed unpopular minority groups, turning them into scapegoats. Jews were the frequent victims. Now, The Atlantic Magazine publishes an article entitled Did Christianity Cause the Crash?.

The thesis is that all of the believers in the “prosperity gospel” were encouraged by their megachurches to take big risks that brought the economy down. The author cites lots of poor people who testified about how God gave them a house, even though they had no money and bad credit.

There may be a point here about the churches in poor communities. But the prosperity gospel is so alien to any kind of orthodox Christianity that to say “Christianity caused the crash” is surely guilt by association, scapegoating a religion by citing people who really don’t follow it.

Still, the article is an interesting window into the prosperity gospel phenomenon. I’ll blog more on that tomorrow.

HT: Jackie

Carbon Dioxide as a dangerous substance

Here is a big danger of our current governmental structure: If the Executive branch cannot get the legislature to pass the laws that it wants, it is still possible to get the same result by bypassing elected officials and having a bureaucratic agency issue regulations. From Business Fumes Over Carbon Dioxide Rule – WSJ.com:

Officials gather in Copenhagen this week for an international climate summit, but business leaders are focusing even more on Washington, where the Obama administration is expected as early as Monday to formally declare carbon dioxide a dangerous pollutant.

An "endangerment" finding by the Environmental Protection Agency could pave the way for the government to require businesses that emit carbon dioxide and five other greenhouse gases to make costly changes in machinery to reduce emissions — even if Congress doesn't pass pending climate-change legislation. EPA action to regulate emissions could affect the U.S. economy more directly, and more quickly, than any global deal inked in the Danish capital, where no binding agreement is expected.

Carbon dioxide as a dangerous substance! A substance necessary for life! This would make every human being who exhales–that is, who is alive–a polluter at every breath.

Classical education as a confessional mandate?

Tracing some of those helpful Luther quotes on vocations that some of you had given me, I came across this in the online Bente Triglotta translation of the Book of Concord. From the explanation of the Fourth Commandment in The Large Catechism:

Let every one know, therefore, that it is his duty, on peril of losing the divine favor, to bring up his children above all things in the fear and knowledge of God, and if they are talented, have them learn and study something, that they may be employed for whatever need there is [to have them instructed and trained in a liberal education, that men may be able to have their aid in government and in whatever is necessary].

As I recall, the bracketed text means that it is in the Latin version, but not the German. I believe subscription is to the German version, which is the main text for the modern English translations. Still, it’s surely significant that “liberal education”–which is synonymous with “classical education,” referring to the liberal arts, the education that forms a free citizen)–is advocated in the Lutheran confessions. “On peril of losing the divine favor,” no less, at least for children who are talented.

Anglos don’t know Lutheranism

I was talking with an Anglican priest and, after we had compared notes about our churches, he expressed surprise that there are Missouri Synod Lutherans who worship with the liturgy. This, even though the typical Lutheran congregation is far more liturgical than he is, what with our chanted divine services and more elaborate practices! The day before I was reading Graham Greene’s excellent, profound, and highly-Christian novel The Power and the Glory . It includes some German-American Lutherans, whom Greene depicts as kindly and not put off by the whisky priest’s sinfulness, but who have no crosses, just Gideon Bibles, and reject all of its “non-essentials” that characterizes Catholicism. But German-American Lutherans have crosses–yea, crucifixes–and are replete with what other Protestants consider non-essentials! Earlier, I had been enjoyed the first-rate mystery series by C. J. Sansom, whose detective Matthew Shardlake in the reign of Henry VIII solves murders in the age of the Reformation. (Start with Dissolution.) Despite Sansom’s thorough research and his main character’s personal investment in the Reformation cause, Lutherans are portrayed as the most radical of the dissenting sects, known mainly for their doctrine of predestination!

I suppose the English are just unfamiliar with Lutheranism. They seem to assume it is the opposite end of Catholicism, the Protestant pole of the via media that they are always trying to achieve. I’m sure this is part of the reason Americans too are often oblivious to the Lutherans in their midst. Then again, part of the fault may lie with the Lutherans for keeping their beliefs to themselves.