Which Old Testament laws apply to non-Jews?

VALERIE'S QUESTION:Do God's laws apply to Gentiles, including foods that should not be eaten, i.e. pigs, fish without scales?THE RELIGION GUY'S ANSWER:Valerie raises a broad topic but focuses on the ritually prohibited foods in the Hebrew Bible (what Christians call the Old Testament) as listed in Leviticus 11 and  Deuteronomy 14. For traditional Jews, kosher observance involves both obedience to God and identity with their people and heritage across thousands of years. However, … [Read More...]

What’s ahead for Americans who believe in traditional marriage?

THE RELIGION GUY ASKS:With the U.S. Supreme Court's mandate to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide, what's ahead for religious believers in traditional man-and-woman marriage alone? (The Guy poses this timely topic now in place of the usual question posted by an online reader.)THE ANSWER:The historic June 26 legalization, by a one-vote majority of a deeply divided Supreme Court, demonstrates with stark clarity religion's declining influence and stature in American culture.The … [Read More...]

Does the Bible’s ban on “graven images” forbid art in church?

BRAD'S QUESTION:Why don't Catholics have a problem with the graven images that surround them in church?THE RELIGION GUY'S ANSWERBrad is obviously Protestant in his cultural outlook. That is, Catholic and Orthodox churches encourage religious art in church, seen as aids to devotion. Protestants' policies vary (as on most things!) but they broadly unite with Judaism in limiting visual images in worship settings to avoid any association with idolatry. Some Protestants prohibit all art … [Read More...]

What can experts tell us about America’s growing “nondenominational” churches?

RACHAEL'S QUESTION:In the recent Pew survey showing America's religious changes, how were nondenominational churches categorized?THE RELIGION GUY'S ANSWER:Rachael asked previously what America's biggest Christian groups are, and now has another demographic item about the Pew Research Center's important "Religious Landscape Study," which continues to spur discussion. (Text: www.pewforum.org/files/2015/05/RLS-05-08-full-report.pdf. This blog scanned key findings May 16). Pew's 2014 … [Read More...]

Why did Jesus Christ “die for our sins”?

JOHN'S QUESTION:I understand there is currently a debate between orthodox and progressive theologians on the doctrine of the atonement. I always considered this a cornerstone of Christian theology. Can you encapsulate the arguments?THE RELIGION GUY'S ANSWER:A tough one, and this mere journalist has long pondered how to reply. Tough because the meaning of Jesus' crucifixion stands right at the heart of the Christian faith -- indeed the cross is its universal symbol -- and so is … [Read More...]

How do Christians interpret “You shall not kill”?

GEORGE'S QUESTION:When are we as Christians allowed to fight back and protect our civilization?THE RELIGION GUY'S ANSWER:George wonders whether Christians should work in police departments, whose conduct is much in the news, as well as the armed forces or other security vocations that  involve use of violence and possible  injury or death. The Religion Guy previously addressed various religions' views of military service: ww … [Read More...]

What will result from the increase of non-religious Americans?

JOSHUA'S QUESTION:Ed Stetzer suggests the rise of the "nones" -- the religiously unaffiliated -- is a dual trend. On the one hand, the more nominal "cultural Christians" are no longer self-identifying as Christians, and on the other hand the more theologically conservative Christians are becoming more robust. What are the political consequences?THE RELIGION GUY'S ANSWER:Following Joshua's posting, the Pew Research Center issued an attention-getting "Religious Landscape Study" of the … [Read More...]

How — and why — did John the Baptist baptize Jesus?

GERALD'S QUESTION:When John the Baptist baptized Jesus, what would the baptismal formula have been? "Father, Son, and Holy Spirit" wasn't used until the 2nd Century.THE RELIGION GUY'S ANSWER:Even a highly skeptical scholar like John Dominic Crossan considers it historical fact that Jesus inaugurated his public ministry with baptism performed by his cousin John the Baptist, who was "preaching in the wilderness." There's also wide agreement that John would have used full immersion in … [Read More...]

500 years later, how do Protestants and Catholics view each other?

GORDON'S QUESTION:Is the divide between Protestants and Catholics growing or shrinking?THE RELIGION GUY'S ANSWER:"Will Pope Francis Break the Church?"  The Atlantic attached that overwrought headline to a sober analysis of internal Catholic tensions written by New York Times columnist Ross Douthat. No, Francis won't, despite weighty issues the article surveyed. But a dramatic "break" did actually happen, beginning in 1517 when Martin Luther posted what history calls the "95 Theses." T … [Read More...]

Are tattoos OK for Jews and Christians?

JACOB'S QUESTION:Christians and Jews -- Is it OK for them to get tattoos?THE RELIGION GUY'S ANSWER:Quick summary: Many if not most Jews say no (as do Muslims). With Christians, it's complicated.There are obvious pros and cons with getting a tattoo because it's a social signifier and permanently so, unlike hair styles, attire, and other expressions of individuality. But as a religious matter the issue is whether to observe the Bible's commandment in Leviticus 19:28: "You shall not … [Read More...]