Was Mary a teenager when she gave birth to Jesus?

And it came to pass that the weirdest religious quote of 2017 occurred when Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore was accused of sexual assault upon girls who were ages 14 and 16 when he was in his early 30s. Moore denied this. But State Auditor Jim Ziegler leapt to his fellow Republican’s defense by offering the Washington Examiner this head-scratcher: “Take Joseph and Mary. Mary was a teenager and Joseph was an adult carpenter. They became parents of Jesus. There’s just… Read more

Should 26 Texas Baptists massacred at worship be called martyrs?

DEANN’S QUESTION: Are the congregants massacred in Sutherland Springs martyrs? THE RELIGION GUY’S ANSWER: A shooting rampage during Sunday worship at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, took 26 lives (if we count an unborn baby). It was the worst slaughter at a house of worship in American history, though such atrocities occur all too often at churches in strife-ridden Islamic lands and more often at mosques — witness more than 300 Muslim worshipers massacred November 24 at Bir al-Abed,… Read more

Who decided which books to include in the New Testament, when, and why?

THE RELIGION GUY OBSERVES that with “fake news” all over the news it’s wise to be aware of fake history. Consider Dan Brown’s influential pop novel “The Da Vinci Code.” Though the plot is fiction, readers may assume the book provides reliable historical background. Experts say that’s misleading, and one example is Brown’s version of how the New Testament came to be. That’s a timely question due to an important new technical work on the subject, “The Biblical Canon Lists from… Read more

Why Are There Differences in the Gospels?

THE RELIGION GUY observes that the wording of the perennial question above is the title of an important new book by Michael Licona of Houston Baptist University and published by the prestigious Oxford University Press. Variations among the four New Testament Gospels in parallel accounts of the same events and sayings are fascinating for scholars. And they can perplex believers, though most involve details that don’t affect the main teaching or are easily explained in Bible commentaries. Meanwhile, those who… Read more

At year 500, what is the legacy of Protestantism?

THE RELIGION GUY raises the above question and answers it with a few thoughts upon the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. This vast, ongoing split in Christianity involved theology and spirituality, but as a journalist The Guy [disclosure: a lay Protestant] will emphasize culture. The uproar originated on October 31, 1517 (All Saints’ Eve), when Martin Luther issued his “95 Theses.” Matters evolved from there into a sweeping assault on the papacy and the Catholic Church. Historians debate whether the… Read more

How can we begin to comprehend all those labels that divide Christians?

WENDI’S QUESTION (paraphrased): Denominational. Non-denominational. Fundamentalist. Baptist. Mormon. Methodist. Assembly of God. Etc. Etc.: How do we know what type of beliefs these are? Why or why not claim to be ‘Christian’ without anything else added? This is confusing me. THE RELIGION GUY’S ANSWER: Wendi has good reason to be confused, especially about the incredibly complex situation in the United States this article will seek to unscramble. By contrast, one or two churches often denominate in European countries and there are… Read more

In the Old Testament, was God guilty of “genocide”?

THE RELIGION GUY poses this complex historical question himself instead of the customary answer to an item posted via “Send Your Questions In” — new submissions very much welcomed. There’s been important debate on this issue recently, and a new book proposes sweeping reinterpretation of the Old Testament depiction of Israel’s “Conquest” of the Holy Land under Joshua. More on that below. Richard Dawkins, a fervent foe of religion, indicts the biblical God for inciting “genocide” in the Bible’s conquest passages… Read more

Should women serve as Christian clergy? Why, or why not?

THE RELIGION GUY (instead of answering a question posted by a reader) raises this topic that he discussed with a house guest who advocated an all-male clergy on biblical grounds, while The Guy (full disclosure) favored having pastors of either gender. Most Christians have belonged to church bodies that limit clergy leadership to men. A watershed occurred in 1975 when Archbishop of Canterbury Donald Coggan wrote to inform Pope Paul VI about a growing consensus within the international Anglican Communion… Read more

Why do Jewish and Christian Bibles put the books in a different order?

GORDON’S QUESTION: Why is there a different order of the books of the Hebrew Bible in Jewish and Christian editions? THE RELIGION GUY’S ANSWER: As we’ll see, there’s revived debate about this. For starters, one key fact is that the contrasting lists did not result from conflict between Judaism and Christianity but rather the varied sequences used by Jews. Overview: The Jewish Bible and Protestant Old Testament have the same contents, but list the books in different order. Catholicism’s ordering… Read more

Are U.S Christians “Gnostics” in disguise? Revisiting an odd old theory

NORMAN’S QUESTION: How do you feel about Professor Harold Bloom’s contention (1992 book) that all American religion is more Gnostic than Christian, [that Americans] believe in “God and me,” which is not historic Christianity at all. THE RELIGION GUY’S ANSWER: This question regards the American literary critic’s book “The American Religion: The Emergence of the Post-Christian Nation.” When first published, many saw eccentric or crackpot thinking as Bloom contended that most Americans’ belief “masks itself as Protestant Christianity yet has… Read more

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