Mockery

A British Church held a ceremony of blessing for cell phones today.

The special service at the St. Lawrence Jewry church, which dates back to 1136, was attended by around 80 people who held their phones and other gadgets in the air while vicar David Parrott blessed them.

Absurdity.  ‘Blessing’ has nothing to do with inanimate objects- but rather with persons.  ‘Blessing’ phones or implements or tools or bikes or cars or tv’s or radios or water or any such thing breathes the same ‘magical’ air as the belief that the bread and wine actually become the body and blood of Christ.  ‘Blessing’ doesn’t stick to stuff any more than air sticks to outer space.

Pretending that such acts are meaningful cheapens and mocks the act of actually blessing a person.  What is a blessing anyway?  It’s the act of calling on God to aid and comfort persons in their struggles and victories.  God doesn’t aid and comfort inanimate objects.

When You’re A Politician, No One Expects You To Be Consistent

Take, for instance, the case of Harold Ford Jr., erstwhile candidate in Tennessee who has since his defeat moved to New York.  In Tennessee, he was an opponent of ‘gay marriage’ but now that he’s moved to New York and running for office there, he’s all for it.

Ford, who represented Memphis in Congress for five terms, was asked if he now favors gay marriage on Monday’s “Today Show,” and he said he did.

Color me shocked… (not really. not a little. not at all).  For politicians, positions are always determined by geography.

In Memoriam Gottfried W. Locher

Among students of the Swiss Reformation the name of Gottfried Locher towers above the rest. Locher’s brilliant contributions to that fecund period of theological development are without peer. He died on the 11th of January, 1996.

His most influential contribution, I think, is his massive and utterly thorough Die Zwinglische Reform im Rahmen der europäischen Kirchengeschichte. Tremendously difficult to find, it nonetheless is worth the effort.

There’s a very brief bio of the great scholar here:

geboren 29.4.1911 Elberfeld (heute Wuppertal),gestorben 11.1.1996 Bern, ref., von Zürich. Sohn des Gottfried Wilhelm, Pfarrers der niederländ.-ref. Gemeinde Wuppertal-Elberfeld, und der Berta geb. Oberman. ∞ 1936 Irene Schöffner.

Theologiestud. in Königsberg, Zürich, Bonn. 1936 Pfarrer in Binningen, 1941 in Feuerthalen, 1954 in Riehen. 1948 Dr. theol., 1954 PD an der Univ. Zürich, 1958-78 o. Prof. für systemat. Theologie und Dogmengeschichte in Bern (1968-69 Rektor). L.s wissenschaftl. Interesse galt der (auf ihre Aktualität hin befragten) Reformationstheologie.

Er legte profunde Studien zu Heinrich Bullinger, Johannes Calvin, zur Berner Reformation und v.a. zu Huldrych Zwingli vor, dessen Theologie er “im Lichte seiner Christologie” und dessen Reformation “im Rahmen der europ. Kirchengeschichte” darstellte. Dr. h.c. der Univ. Basel und Debrecen (Ungarn).

Continue to rest in peace, good sir.

Rethinking ‘Inerrancy’

The belief that the Bible is ‘inerrant’ or that Evangelicals must and by and large do adhere to a doctrine of ‘inerrancy’ has been around for a pretty good while now.

Usually, however, the doctrine is approached from ‘below’, from the perspective of the Bible’s putative inability to relate inaccurate historical details. Taken ‘from below’, the doctrine takes a beating.

Perhaps, then, it’s time to consider the doctrine ‘from above’. That is, from the perspective of what the Bible actually is about and it’s ability to rightly inform and guide.

Rethinking the doctrine of Scriptural inerrancy necessitates that we begin to think of the Bible on its own terms and speak of it correctly along the lines of those terms. Doing so allows us, it seems to me, to adopt (!) a doctrine of inerrancy that is both Scriptural and – from the point of view of believers – sustainable and meaningful.

What, then, does it mean to speak of inerrancy from above? Simply put, it means to speak of the Bible as incapable of causing believers to err or stray from the revealed will of God. The Bible reveals the truth about the Divine and the Human. Believers who adhere to that revelation are kept safe from errant behavior or belief and the Scriptures do not err in teaching said proper behavior or belief. Furthermore, those who plant themselves in that revelation are ‘like a tree planted by the waters’ to borrow a phrase from Psalm 1.

Scripture is inerrant, then, because, rightly understood, it cannot and does not cause error in faith or practice.

As an aside or addendum, the little phrase ‘rightly understood’ is absolutely essential. Scripture can be and regularly is distorted by those who can and do wish to twist it to fit their own ends or suit their own needs. Scripture ‘rightly divided’ is inerrant. Scripture distorted or perverted is no longer Scripture, but mere text.

Who then is capable of rightly interpreting Scripture? The person who has 1) the requisite linguistic and hermeneutical skills along with 2) the guiding presence of the Holy Spirit. One without the other results, always, respectively, in error or fanaticism.

As Zwingli rightly put it, on the one hand, ‘without the Spirit one is guided by the flesh or human understanding and is therefore blind’, and on the other, ‘the Spirit doesn’t depart from Scripture, but adheres to it (so that those who speak of ecstatic utterances or secondary revelations are deceivers)’.

This is why the atheist or the unbeliever is, so far as Zwingli and other notable theologians are concerned, incapable of understanding or interpreting Scripture. They can examine texts, to be sure, but they lack the requisite tools (Spirit and training) to interpret it. Like birds in a cage, they can only stare at the text outside their sphere and too far from their grasp to ever be able to touch it.

On The Question of Cremation

The Tennessean has an interesting essay today worth taking a look at concerning the question of cremation.  Is cremation acceptable for Christians?  Is it not?  If not, why not?  These questions crop up from time to time.  Some interesting observation made in the report include these:

About a third of Americans are cremated when they die, according to the National Funeral Directors Association. But Baptists and other evangelicals have been slow to embrace the practice. A recent survey among leaders of the National Association of Evangelicals found that only 8 percent said they would choose cremation. Cremation rates in the Bible Belt remain among the lowest in the country.

And

Traditionally, Hindus and Buddhists have cremated their dead, while Christians, Jews and Muslims have buried their dead. But today, Laderman said, Americans are more likely to mix and match spiritual practices. For example, a recent study by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life showed that 24 percent of Americans, and 22 percent of people who call themselves Christians, also believe in reincarnation.

With no apology to anyone, I have to say, any Christian who believes in reincarnation doesn’t know the first thing about the Bible or what it teaches concerning life after death. Not a hint. Not a clue. The report continues further

“It shows the decline of traditional religious sources of authority,” Laderman said.

Indeed!  So if you’ve ever wondered about cremation, give the article a read.

Heretic Of The Week

Today he would be very much at home in the Unitarian/ Universalist ‘Church’ but in the 16th century he was recognized as the heretical soul he was.  His name?  Michael Servetus.

If you go here you can learn a good deal about him and even watch a short video discussing his ideas.   Noteworthy indeed is this response to the widespread accusation that Calvin was the chief architect of Servetus’ execution-

It is true that Calvin and his fellow pastors in Geneva were involved in the death of Servetus. However, it would be difficult to find any church leader in the 16 th century who advocated a more gentle approach. Luther called for attacks on German peasants and wrote an angry tract against the Jews, called ‘On the Jews and their Lies’. Zwingli, the Reformer of Zurich, supported the execution by drowning of the Anabaptist leader, Felix Manz. Sir Thomas More, England ‘s Catholic Lord Chancellor, presided over the execution of those he viewed as “heretics” in England during the reign of Henry the VIII. Each country of Europe in the sixteenth century felt that defending its religious views involved taking strong measures against those who disagreed. Toleration and acceptance of doctrinal differences were simply not sixteenth-century concepts.

We’ll take a look at a heretic (medieval, or modern) every Monday.  Stay tuned.

Total Depravity: Aiding and Abetting Adultery

A website in Britain exists strictly to serve as a ‘meeting place’ for married men and women to find someone to cheat on their spouse with.  And it has been very busy of late, what with many Britons snowed in.

Britons snowed in by the wintry weather have been flocking to an extra-marital dating site. … The website said most new members are registering from areas worst hit by this week’s extreme weather, including Hampshire, Berkshire, and the West Country, and the site has taken on several temporary staff members to cope with the rush.

And, disturbingly,

“Perhaps these wives and husbands have just been waiting for a time when they could join, away from the eyes of their work colleagues and, most importantly, their partners…” The website said it has gained 2,567 new members in the last six days, suggesting that January will be its busiest month ever.

The final remark by the website spokesperson puts the icing on the depraved cake…

It says it has more than 350,000 members in Britain and that its aim is to create a safe and non-judgemental environment where married men and women can meet each other.

There’s no such thing as a ‘non-judgemental’ environment because God’s all seeing eye holds married persons responsible for their actions. Adultery, being prohibited, is not exempt from judgement.

We all know that the most popular phrase of the guilty conscience is ‘don’t judge me’. Don’t worry. People don’t have to judge you. God does it. And while you might be able to hide your infidelity from your spouse for a little while, you can’t hide it from God.

California’s ‘Gay Marriage’ Trial

The first federal trial to determine if the U.S. Constitution prohibits states from outlawing same-sex marriage gets under way Monday, and the two gay couples on whose behalf the case was brought will be among the first witnesses. The proceedings, which are expected to last two to three weeks, involve a challenge to Proposition 8, the gay marriage ban approved by California voters in November 2008. Regardless of the outcome, the case is likely to be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, where it ultimately could become a landmark that determines if gay Americans have the right to marry.

This could prove to be the most important case since Roe v. Wade in terms of its potential impact on the fabric of American culture.

Palin May Be Right…

Sarah Palin appears to believe that McCain chose her as his running mate because God planned it to be so.  And she may be right.  The ways of God, after all, are mysterious and God may well have inspired McCain to choose Palin precisely so that he (and she) would lose the election.

“There were numerous instances that she said things that were — that were not accurate that, ultimately, the campaign had to deal with. And that opened the door to criticism that she was being untruthful and inaccurate. And I think that that is something that continues to this day,” he [the author of a recent book] said.

Evidently the majority of American voters also sensed something a bit off about her and so did not vote for her ticket. So maybe she’s right. God had her to be the albatross around the neck of McCain, who, it must be said, would probably be a very good President indeed.

Speaking of Basketball as Grist for the Theological Mill…

It’s been a fine week for college hoops. UNC lost to some little college no one had ever heard of. Duke lost to Georgia Tech (though that made me sad) and tonight Tennessee beat #1 Kansas. Fantastically!

What’s it all mean? It means that no one is above correction. Not even those ranked on top. A theological lesson most worthy of consideration to be sure.