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 [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 [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, [Read More...]

What are America’s biggest Christian groups?

RACHAEL’S QUESTION: What are the major Christian denominations in the U.S.? THE RELIGION GUY’S ANSWER: Numbers. Numbers. The Pew Research Center snagged some headlines April 2 with projections on world religions as of 2050 that are worth pondering. Among other things, we’re told high birth rates will make world Islam almost as large as Christianity, [Read More...]

What did Jesus mean in his Good Friday saying to the “daughters of Jerusalem”?

KRISTYN’S QUESTION: I’m having trouble discerning what Luke was trying to communicate when he referred to the women of Jerusalem on Jesus’ trek up to Golgotha [in Luke 23:28-31]. If this is exactly what Jesus said, I have no idea what he meant. Can you shed some light on this? THE RELIGION GUY’S ANSWER: Thanks [Read More...]

How will the gay marriage OK affect the Presbyterian Church (USA)?

DUANE’S QUESTION: What do you think will happen to the Presbyterian Church (USA) now that it has voted to officially sanction gay marriage? THE RELIGION GUY’S ANSWER: Maybe not much. The Presbyterian Church (USA) announced March 17 that a nationwide referendum among regional bodies (“presbyteries”) has redefined marriage as “between two people, traditionally a man [Read More...]

666!!: What should we make of the Bible’s scariest number?

WESLEY’S QUESTION: Does it really matter if it is 666 or 616? THE RELIGION GUY’S ANSWER: Hold that 616 for a moment. The Bible’s scariest number — 666 — occurs in Revelation 13:17-18, a famously perplexing passage in Scripture’s most perplexing book. (If you’re superstitious, note that’s in chapter 13.) “The International Bible Commentary” recounts that assorted [Read More...]

Did Paul write all 13 letters the Bible credits to him?

RACHAEL ASKS: What is the debate about the authorship of Paul’s letters to the early church? THE RELIGION GUY ANSWERS: The New Testament includes 13 letters (“epistles”) from Christianity’s first decades that name the apostle Paul as the author, or Paul with colleagues Silvanus, Sosthenes, or Timothy. The earliest is 1 Thessalonians, written just a [Read More...]

How should we understand the three “Abrahamic” religions?

NIHAL ASKS: Why aren’t the three Abrahamic religions (Christianity, Islam, and Judaism) one main religion? THE RELIGION GUY ANSWERS: Nihal posted his query while preparing a 9th grade school report, and unfortunately this response comes too late to help. On the specific question of”why” these three faiths exist the way they are the best a [Read More...]

Is Islam a “religion of peace”?

DAVID ASKS: Where is the Muslim peace movement? Put another way, if Islam is a peace-loving religion where are the Muslim voices for peace? THE RELIGION GUY ANSWERS: “Islam is a religion that preaches peace,” U.S. President Barack Obama told CBS last September, and likewise President George W. Bush’s mosque speech after 9-11 said “Islam [Read More...]