In 325, the Emperor Constantine convened the world’s Christian bishops to a conclave in Nicaea, where they debated the Arian controversy. The assembled bishops debated the ousiases of Jesus, God the Father, the Holy Spirit, etc. Well, one of the bishops, Nikolaos of Myra, got so pissed at Arius as he prattled on about how the Trinity was bunk, that he got up and slapped him!
In seminary, I took a class from then-provost-now-president Richard Mouw. He began every class with a meditation on and then singing of a hymn, which he prefaced with the statement that much of the best theology of the history of the church is archived in our hymnody. (I could add that some of the church’s worst theology is also catalogued there.)
Sure, “A Mighty Fortress” is good, if you’re into that kind of thing. And there’s a plethora of Easter hymns that joyously proclaim resurrection. But I’ve always thought that the hymns of Advent are the most theologically articulate and nuanced in the corpus of hymnody.
That was reaffirmed to me last night when, breaking from the tradition of not singing cover songs, we at Solomon’s Porch sang “O Come, O Come Emmanuel,” in which we find this beautiful verse:
It’s Friday, which means it’s time for me to respond to Patience’s question in the Questions That Haunt Christianity series. Patience is a former Christian who has explored other religions and has come across the Gnostic writings of early Christianity in her pursuit for truth. She asks,
Why [are] those gospels are not in any bibles, why no christians read or quote them, and why so conveniently christianity can dispose of alternate explanations within christianity itself; is christianity ultimately just a test of saying the right words, or is christianity ready to admit among its ranks those who do not believe in miracles, virgin births, or resurrections?
Patience, the answer lies right in your question.