Monthly Archives: January 2010

Theses By Which to Live: A Series

Die Berner Thesen
In altem Deutsch

1 Die heilig Christenlich Kilch, deren einig houpt Christus, ist us dem wort Gots geborn, im sel­ben belibt sy und hoeret nit die stimm eines froembden.

2 Die Kilch Christi machet nit gesatz und bott on gottes wort. Deszhalb all menschen satzungen, so man nempt der Kilchen pott, uns nit wyter bindent, dann sy in goettlichem wort gegründt und potten sind.

3 Christus ist unser einige wyßheit, gerechtigkeit, erloesung und bezalung für aller wellt sünd. Deßhalb ein andern verdienst der saeligkeit un gnueg thuon für die sünd bekennen, ist Chri­stum verleugnen.

4 Das der lyb und das bluot Christi waesenlich und liblich in dem brot der Dancksagung empfan­gen werde, mag mit Biblischer geschrifft nit bybracht werden.

5 Die Maess, jetz im bruch, darin man Christum Gott, dem vatter für die sünd der laebendigen und todten uffopfere, ist der geschrifft widrig, dem aller heiligosten opffer, liden und sterben Christi ein lesterung und umb der mißbrüchen willen ein grüwel vor Gott.

6 Wie Cristus ist allein für uns gestorben, also sol er ein einiger mitler und fürsprech zwüschen Gott, dem vatter, und uns gloeubigen angeruefft werden. Deszhalb all ander mittler und für­sprechen uszerthalb disem zyt anzerueffen, von uns on grund der geschrifft usfgeworffen.

7 Das nach disem zyt dhein Faegfhür in der gschrifft erfunden wirt. Desshalb all todten dienst als Vigill, Seelmaess, Seelgraet, Sibend, Triszgost, Jarzit, amplen, kertzen und der glichen vergeblich sind.

8 Billder machen zuo vererung, ist wider Gottes wort nuews und alts Testaments. Deszhalb wo sy in gefar der vererung fürgestellt, abzethuond syend.

9 Die heilig Ee ist keinem stand verbotten in der gschrifft, sunder huory und unküscheit zever­miden allen staenden potten.

10 Diewyl ein offenlicher Huorer nach der geschrifft im waren Bann, so volget, das unküscheit und huory der ergernuss halb keinem stand schaedlicher dann priesterlichem.

11 Alles Gott und sinem heiligen wort zuo eren.

For the next 11 weeks, every Monday, we’ll take these theses in turn and examine their practical usefulness for the modern community of faith.

Good Intentions, Bad Implementation

Ten Americans will appear in court tomorrow in Port-au-Prince after attempting to take 34 children out of Haiti, saying that they were trying to rescue them. The Baptist aid workers, from the Idaho-based New Life Children’s Refuge, were arrested on Friday as they attempted to leave the country for the Dominican Republic, about 45 miles from Port-au-Prince by road. They were reportedly taking the children, aged between three months and 12 years, to a safe house in the Dominican city of Cabarete.

Doubtless they were motivated by the best of intentions- to provide for the children. But taking them without going through all the necessary steps, that’s simply poor implementation of a good intention.

To be right, things have to be done right as well as being rightly motivated. Otherwise all manner of wrong can come of even the best behavior.

Calvin: On Self Understanding

That person has profited well in the knowledge of himself when he is crushed and frightened by understanding his wretchedness, poverty, nakedness, and disgrace. For there is no danger that a person will lower himself too much, provided he understands that he must recover in God what he lacks in himself. — John Calvin

Good For Billy

Billy Bragg

… is threatening to not pay his taxes in protest of the big bank bonuses to the Royal Bank of Scotland. Bragg explains that he has written to the Chancellor to inform him that he is “no longer prepared to fund the excessive bonuses of RBS investment bankers. Unless he acts to limit [bonuses] to £25,000, I shall be withholding my tax payment on 31st January.”

Yes, good for him. If everyone wrote their representatives and threatened the same thing what a difference it would make. I know I for one am tired of seeing my tax dollars completely wasted on corporations that pay their workers in a month more than I make in a year.

The Archbishop Is Right About That

If the world wants an ethical economy, it must build ethical people. That was the message from the Archbishop of Canterbury at the end of a three-day conference at Trinity Church on Wall Street this week. Dr Rowan Williams asserted that the question of how to build an ethical economy could not be separated from the question of what kind of people we want to be.

True words those.   And the proper funeral oration for an ethical economy. Because there will, so long as the world stands, be greed, selfishness, and persons operating purely from the basis of self interest with no regard for ethics.  Indeed, without God as the center of human life, ethics don’t exist and neither does ethical behavior.

Weather: A Question/Observation

Here in East Tennessee, in the Knoxville area, there are hundreds of churches that have canceled services today because of the weather.   And I have no quibble with that.  Be safe, etc., and all that.

But, that said, I wonder why they never cancel something like the Super Bowl and  it (and many other sporting events) never seems to suffer poor attendance due to bad weather.

I wonder why…

Theocracy, Lancaster California Style

As a Baptist who firmly believes in the State keeping its grotesque nose out of the business of religion I find the remarks of the Mayor of Lancaster both offensive and abusive.

The mayor of Lancaster has urged its residents to approve specifically-Christian prayers at public meetings, in an effort to “grow” the sixth-largest city in Los Angeles County into a “Christian community,” it was reported today. Lancaster residents were urged by Mayor R. Rex Parris in a state of the city speech to support a city ballot measure that would authorize daily prayers at city council meetings. In his speech, Parris said “we are growing a Christian community, and don’t let anybody shy away from that,” according to the Antelope Valley Press.

Keep your nasty politics and your attempts at State control of religion out of my faith. Christians don’t need, or want, the State uttering such proclamations or making such demands. Every Baptist in particular who values the very fine Baptist tradition of denouncing state intrusion in matters of faith should be up in arms out in Lancaster.

The Mayor may be well intentioned, but he is no theologian or biblical scholar and he has no right pretending to be.  And California isn’t a theocracy.  To prove it, just ask the Mayor what he would say if Buddhists or Muslims made the same suggestions that he has.  The Mayor is dead wrong on this.  He couldn’t be wrong-er if he were NT Wright.

Total Depravity: The Murdering Teen Edition

This fellow killed an 80 year old woman as she sat in her car in the church parking lot where she had just attended Mass.  For her purse.

For her purse, he shot her.   An 80 year old woman…

Youngstown police Lt. Kevin Mercer says 18-year-old Jamar Houser was arrested Friday night on warrants charging him with aggravated murder and aggravated robbery. … Angeline Fimognari (fim-eh-NAHR’-ee) was killed Jan. 23 in the parking lot of St. Dominic’s Parish in Youngstown. She was found slumped over in the driver’s side of her car with her purse missing.

No matter how much she had, if it were 5 million dollars, her life was worth more- except to a totally depraved 18 year old who valued his own pettiness above a woman’s life. That’s total depravity.

Ah, Life in Rural America…

Where the power has gone out because a tree caused a line to arc.  And the temperature tonight is supposed to be 11.  And the electric company has no idea how long it will be off.  (And I can only post this because I have a tiny powerpack hooked up to the dsl box).

What a bummer…  Anyway, if you don’t hear from me again it’s because I’ve frozen to death…

UPDATE:  It took a mere 2  1/4 hours to get it fixed.

Texas, An Inflatable Gorilla, A Fire, And a Fire Chief

Are all brought together in one of those tales that makes me glad there’s a Texas in these here United States.  Texas, bless you, you are an unending source of comic material.

Here are the facts:

1- an out-of-control inflatable gorilla was blamed for a rooftop blaze at a Houston shopping center (yeah those inflatable gorillas can be wild…)

2- The remnants of the inflatable gorilla were seen at the site (good thing- it would be really horrible if a fire damaged inflatable gorilla were roaming the streets).

Thank you Texas!  I love you!

Oh Pastors…

Don’t pull guns on your children.  At church

The son of a well-known Alcoa pastor has taken out an order of protection against his father, claiming he was threatened with a gun during an argument at a church over his lack of church attendance. The order of protection was filed by 32-year-old Michael Louis Colquitt against 60-year-old Joe Colquitt, pastor of St. John Missionary Baptist Church.

And if you’re Baptist you really shouldn’t. Baptists already get plenty of bad press.

Islamic Theology: Soon to be Available in German Universities

Germany will announce a plan on Monday to offer training programs for students who wish to become Muslim spiritual leaders, or imams, the country’s top academic body said. The German Council of Science and Humanities, composed of senior government officials and professors, called for institutes of Islamic theology to be established at two to three universities initially.

Ok fine. This, though, is the part that caused me to raise an eyebrow…

Currently, Islamic studies at German universities mainly focus in a neutral way on history and art. A department has been set up at one German university, however, in the western city of Muenster, to train schoolteachers to teach Islam to children.

All of which leads me to say hmmmmm….

Tel Kabri 2009

I wish I had gone, but alas… I couldn’t.  However, Eric Cline was still kind enough to send me a couple of tee shirts from the dig.  Here’s front, back, and the whole thing.  Thanks, Eric.

I’m not sure if Eric will be digging at Kabri next year or if he’ll be back at Megiddo.  Either way, if you can join him, you should.  I was at Ein Gedi with Hirschfeld once and it was fantastic.  Everyone should participate on an archaeological dig at least once in their life.

UPDATE:  I’ve learned that there are various sizes and colors left: black, blue, green (khaki), pink/fuschia, red, ranging from S to XXL….  If you would like one just write Eric at ehcline@gwu.edu and he can give you all the details.

I Buy Books, And If I Have Money Left Over, I Buy Food and Clothes…

So said Erasmus of Rotterdam and he’s not alone in that sentiment.  As my wife can testify.  And I’m sure I’m not alone among theologians and biblical scholars.  Or, it seems, the general public.

Three-quarters of adults questioned in an online poll said they would sacrifice holidays, dining out, going to the movies and even shopping sprees but they could not resist buying books. Dining out came in a far second with only 11 percent of Americans naming it their top indulgence, followed by shopping at 7 percent, vacations at four and movies, which was chosen by only 3 percent of Americans. “The recession highlighted the downside of greed, indulgence and giving in to temptation, but we noticed a shift back to life’s simplest pleasures,” said Michelle Renaud, a senior manager at Harlequin Enterprises Limited, which conducted the poll.

Now I’m not going to read anything by Harlequin- but I’ll continue to buy books, even if that means going hungry.  Thank you, Erasmus, for making me feel better about that.

Another Mega Church With Mega Debt Mega Suffers

Lumbering behemoth the Crystal Cathedral is being crushed under its own weight of debt and shortfalls.

The Southern California megachurch founded by televangelist Robert H. Schuller Sr. is selling property, laying off workers and pulling its signature TV program “Hour of Power” from some markets to offset a nearly $8 million drop in revenue. The church saw revenue drop 27 percent from roughly $30 million in 2008 to $22 million in 2009, church spokesman Mike Nason told The Associated Press. The church had projected an 18 percent revenue drop.

Bigger isn’t better, it’s just heavier. Megachurches are in the theological world what obesity is in the realm of the physical: unnecessarily large only because they expend too much effort on self.

Megachurches, unwilling to go on a diet themselves, are being forced to diet by divine providence. Maybe they will listen.  Though the fact is, once theological obesity sets in, seldom is the weight of self importance ever lost.