Martin Luther Reviews Eric Metaxas’ Book on Martin Luther

Truly it won’t be easy for you to believe how unwillingly I have torn myself away from the peace-giving words of Christ, with which I have been occupied on this my Patmos, in order to waste my time reading the nonsense of this prickly and thorny sophist. Indeed, the man is sophistic from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. Swollen with the flatulent bull, he writes with such confidence that he considers both industry and discernment unnecessary. He is content to babble whatever he has read or swallowed. It is a great bother to reply to him, for in doing so you can neither exercise skill nor increase your learning, and yet you are forced to waste precious hours.

And

This poor, ignorant fellow …  heeds only superstitious practices, devised for show and effect, which God neither commands nor approves of.

And

The stupid dolt wrote such wretched stuff that I had to laugh.

— Martin Luther

Even The Nonsense of Dispensationalism Comes in Pumpkin Spice Now…

A team of dispensational premillennialist prophecy experts has declared the official start of a previously unknown “pumpkin spice” dispensation, sources confirmed Thursday.

“The signs are clear that God’s unfolding of His redemptive plan has taken yet another detour,” prophecy teacher Hal Lindsey told reporters at a press conference announcing the new dispensation, accompanied by a new book to help Christians navigate the new prophetic era. “The days of the prophet Joel are upon us, complete with the signs of the times: UGG Boots, North Face jackets, and pumpkin spice lattes, candies, and baked goods.”

An excitable, animated Lindsey also reported that a strange shift in the heavenly signs has formed a giant pumpkin-shaped constellation in the sky, further confirming the dawn of a new dispensation.

“Previously, we believed there to be some twenty-seven different dispensations, but we’re now pretty sure that it’s going to be locked at twenty-eight,” he said.

According to the prophecy report released by the team of pastors and scholars, the majority of commentaries on Revelation will need to be rewritten as experts reinterpret the apocalyptic signs as a wide range of pumpkin spice themed products.

“While we once believed the locusts in Revelation 9 represented different kinds of helicopters or drones, we’re now fairly certain that the insects are suburbanites descending upon Starbucks locations to consume pumpkin spice,” Lindsey continued.

At publishing time, prophecy experts had once again convened to reconsider their prophetic books, as rumors of apocalyptic signs in the form of peppermint mochas had taken premillennial scholars by storm.

Why I Still Don’t Much Care for Karl Barth

#Bam, Barthians. Brunner was Better. And still is.

TheEcclesialCalvinist

Bill Evans head shot

A recent and significant article about Karl Barth’s personal life is making some waves.  Christiane Tietz, Professor of Systematic Theology at the University of Zürich, examines the relationship between Karl Barth and his secretary, Charlotte von Kirschbaum, on the basis of recently published correspondence between Barth, his wife Nelly, and Charlotte.  Tietz’s findings were presented at the 2016 meeting of the Karl Barth Society of North America, and that paper has now been published (Christiane Tietz, “Karl Barth and Charlotte von Kirschbaum,” Theology Today 74/2 [2017], 86-111).

The nature of Barth’s relationship with Charlotte had long been hinted at.  Barth’s biographer and student, Eberhard Busch, came as close as any to acknowledging that Barth and Charlotte were lovers:

There is no question that the intimacy of her relationship with him made particularly heavy demands on the patience of his wife Nelly. . . Barth himself did not hesitate to take…

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Breaking Down the Gun Control Debate in Simple Noncombative Neutral Terms

The gun control debate is raging throughout the land, and while some people say they want a “national conversation” over the issue, what they really want is to lecture you. So, as always, we at The Babylon Bee are here to present you with just the facts, so you understand both positions—no matter which side of the contentious topic you may land on.

We spent literally minutes researching each side of this debate on several social media outlets so we can help you be supremely informed on the positions of both the godless, liberal anti-gun folks who want to snatch away your M249 light machine gun for some reason, and the gun-toting rednecks who open-carry enough firearms to overthrow a small third-world dictatorship when they head to Walmart to pick up some American flag Speedos on clearance for the winter.

Join us as we look at the policy positions of both the pro-gun-control snowflakes and the anti-gun-control militiamen.

ORIGINS

Pro-gun control: A kid who watched Bambi for the first time in the late 1950s wept uncontrollably for a forty-day period of mourning and then decided to make his life’s mission the eradication of all firearms, and thus, the anti-gun lobby was born. Thanks, Bambi!

Anti-gun control: The pro-gun lobby was forged in the crucible of the American Revolution, watered with the blood of the patriots who have gone before us, and handed to you in a folded up American flag, all so that your cousin Cletus could shoot Coors Light cans with a bazooka out by the sand dunes every weekend.

BASIC BELIEFS

Pro-gun control: The heart of mankind isn’t the source of sin and depravity—guns are. If we’d just let the government take away all our firearms, the world would ascend into a place of peace and harmony. There will still be guns and other deadly assault weapons, of course, but only trustworthy individuals like police, military, and our deranged world leaders will have access to them. It’s just common sense, people.

Anti-gun control: The Second Amendment was handed down to Moses alongside the Ten Commandments, specifying that any citizen of Israel be allowed to concealed carry up to twenty-eight light machine guns on his person at any given time. When America took over Israel’s spot as God’s chosen people, this right was transferred to American citizens, and therefore any attempt to ban U.S. citizens from owning sensible guns like .22 rifles, 12-gauge shotguns, or M1 Abrams Tanks is an attack upon the Bible itself.

POLICY POSITIONS

Pro-gun control: All scary-looking guns and gun accessories should be branded with meaningless, ominous-sounding names and subsequently banned. American citizens are to protect themselves against criminals, terrorists, and any possible malicious U.S. government overreach with nothing more than broomsticks and good old-fashioned willpower. But crime would be way lower because none of the bad guys would have guns either, so that’s good.

Anti-gun control: Oppose all forms of gun control except using both hands. Push for an amendment to the Constitution that explicitly allows U.S. citizens to own and openly brandish siege weaponry, attack helicopters, and intercontinental ballistic missiles. If the government should ever try to expand firearm regulations in the slightest, 1776 WILL COMMENCE!

RESPONSES TO MASS SHOOTING INCIDENTS

Pro-gun control: Immediately following any tragic mass shooting, randomly select a type of gun or weapon feature and blame the entire thing on it. They put every term relating to firearms that they don’t understand on a different side of a 20-sided dice and roll it to pick what they’re gonna harp on until they can pass legislation that won’t do anything to prevent the next tragedy.

Anti-gun control: Pray really, really hard that the shooter was a radical Muslim or deranged liberal.

ADHERENTS

Pro-gun control: Really annoying people on your Twitter and Facebook feeds.

Anti-gun control: Really annoying people on your Twitter and Facebook feeds.

Yup.  Via.

Pat Robertson’s Op-Ed: Christianity isn’t About Religion, It’s About a Relationship with Donald Trump

Pat’s piece is posted in the Bee

When Christ came 2,000 years ago, he came not with a set of rules for us to try hard to follow in order to become better people, but with a cross that accomplished our righteousness for us. He came not with more religious regulations but with the very righteousness of God.

Yet, sadly, sometimes we treat Christianity like a set of strict rules to follow. This is a deadly error. One of the worst things you can do in your spiritual walk with God is to equate your beliefs with cold, dead religion. Let me state this plainly: Christianity is not a religion.

Christianity is a personal relationship with President Donald Trump.

It’s not ritual, it’s not ceremony, it’s not going to church on the first day of the week and wearing your Sunday best. It’s not wearing shined-up shoes and polo shirts so everyone else at church will think you’re doing alright. It’s not cold, and it’s not dead. It is a living, active relationship with God’s chosen ruler of the United States.

Don’t measure your faith by how much stuff you do for God; measure your faith by how closely your life emulates that of our savior, Donald Trump. This simple paradigm shift will cause your spiritual growth to skyrocket as you shed the empty shell of false religion and connect on a personal level with Trump.

Get rid of the to-do list and embrace a relationship with the one who is in charge of our nation. Only then will you know what it truly means to walk with The Donald. Only then will you be fully sold-out and committed to Making America Great Again. Only then will you be renewed to walk in newness of life in full faith and fellowship with the Republican Party.

Given the way so many Evangelicals behave, like Eric Metaxas, Jerry Falwell Jr, Franklin Graham, and Trump’s entire ‘religious advisory board’ behave and believe, the Bee’s sarcasm is probably instead literal truth for them.

Summer Biblical Study in Cambridge, 2018

VBS in Cambridge!

Larry Hurtado's Blog

The “Vacation Term for Biblical Study” (VTBS) has announced early-bird bookings for the 2018 sessions to be held in Cambridge:  two back-to-back weeks, 29 July – 3 August, and 5-10 August.  Each week is a complete programme unto itself, so you can book for either week or both.

The annual VTBS (now held in Cambridge) offers week-long lecture courses from nationally and internationally recognized scholars in biblical studies and related subjects.  In the 2018 session, the week 1 programme features Professor Timothy Lim (on the formation of the OT canon), Dr. Kathy Ehrensperger (on Paul’s Corinthian correspondence), and Professor Frances Young (reading the Bible with the Church Fathers).  Week 2 features Dr. John Jarick (on 1-2 Chronicles), Dr. Catrin Williams (on John’s Gospel and its use of the OT), and Dr. James Carleton Paget (on Jesus in ancient anti-Christian polemic).

Numbers are limited, so early booking is advised, and will…

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The Bee Stings the Wrist Tat

I was wondering when they would get around to this little fad

Heavenly messengers confirmed Thursday the addition of a tenth fruit of the Spirit which is to be added to the list of traits in the book of Galatians that characterizes believers in Christ: the inner-wrist tattoo.

The new text of Galatians Chapter 5, verses 22 and 23 will now read: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, and an inner-wrist tattoo; against such things there is no law.”

The angelic messenger revealed to reporters that this type of tattoo has been a bellwether of true Christianity for at least a decade.

“We almost went with Christian-fish car decals, but the inner-wrist tattoo won out as unmistakable fruit of a true believer. Especially if it’s in Hebrew—something like ‘It is well,’ ‘Redeemed,’ or ‘Child of the King.’ Or even just a basic cross works, if you’re boring,” the figured clothed in brilliant light said in a morning press conference. “The location is critical, as it can be hidden with long sleeves when formality requires, but anytime the Jesus-follower wears a Tee shirt or even just slightly rolls his or her sleeves up—boom, everyone knows how hardcore their faith is.”

At publishing time, the messenger confirmed that foot tattoos on females would suffice as well.

It’s Time To Go Home

The Marburg Colloquy ended on Oct 3.  On the 4th the Landgrave held a formal dinner for all the theologians assembled and on the 5th they all started home.

Zwingli reached home on the 19th of October. In reporting the conference at Zurich he claimed the victory for himself. “The truth,” said he, “has so manifestly gained the victory that if the shameless and obstinate Luther be not beaten, there never was anyone beaten, although he never ceases boasting to the contrary.”*

Luther’s boasts were as long as the trip from Marburg to Zurich.  So was his tongue.

journey

___________________________
S. Simpson, Life of Ulrich Zwingli: The Swiss Patriot and Reformer.

Game Over? Reconsidering Eschatology

Modern science informs us about the end of the universe: “game over” is the message which lies ahead of our world. Christian theology, on the other hand, sees in the end not the cessation of all life, but rather an invitation to play again, in God’s presence. Is there a way to articulate together such vastly different claims?

Eschatology is a theological topic which merits being considered from several different angles. This book seeks to do this by gathering contributions from esteemed and fresh voices from the fields of biblical exegesis, history, systematic theology, philosophy, and ethics.

How can we make sense, today, of Jesus’ (and the New Testament’s) eschatological message? How did he, his early disciples, and the Christian tradition, envision the “end” of the world? Is there a way for us to articulate together what modern science tells us about the end of the universe with the biblical and Christian claims about God who judges and who will wipe every tear?

Eschatology has been at the heart of Christian theology for 100 years in the West. What should we do with this legacy? Are there ways to move our reflection forward, in our century? Scholars and other interested readers will find here a wealth of insights.

It is quite the fine collection, consisting of essays in English, German and French.  The table of contents aren’t available online at the DeGruyter website so I wanted to include them here for the sake of fullness:

toc1

toc2

toc3

A quick read through the contents gives potential readers a taste of the richness of the volume.  There has not been anything done, on this scale, on this subject, at this level of scholarly expertise, in living memory.  The interaction possible between reader and volume is nearly limitless.  And what I mean by that is that readers are provided intellectual fodder that will provoke thought for a good while.

Many of the essays are simply spectacular.  Tietz’s, for instance, is simply brilliant. Wolters, too, utterly stunning.  And Ziegler’s is one of the finest essays on ‘the Christian life’ I have ever read.

The editorial introductory essay is, similarly, a stellar execution.  Chalamet and Detweiller, et al, have in it given readers a lot to think about.  They also offer summaries of each of the essays (at the end of the volume) which handily allows readers to locate essays of particular interest for first readings and then others of lesser interest (and this of course differs from person to person) for reading later.

As brilliant and incisive and informative as the volume is, however, there is a minor problem that should be addressed in future editions:  the English essays written by non-native English speakers need a closer editorial look.

English is a language bespattered with nuance.  And that nuance is often outside the experience of scholars whose native language is French or German or Danish or whatever.  When writers write in a language not their own (natively) it’s always best to have those works gone through by a native speaker.  This is true, by the way, of English natives who write in other languages as well.  If I were to write an essay in German (heaven forfend) I would insist a native speaker go through it so that errors of grammar could be avoided.

Not to belabor the point, a few instances of improper grammar can be offered here:

P. 294- It might be worth noting that the question of “why then the evil?” can have three different aspects: Why is suffering distributed so arbitrary?

A native English speaker will use ‘arbitrarily’ rather than ‘arbitrary’.  Arbitrary is the right word, but the wrong form of the word.

P. 295- Any position which recalls a higher plan of God or wich explains the benefit which one can reap of suffering, for example by becoming more mature, belongs to this type.

‘Wich’ should of course be ‘which’.  The form is correct in the first and third instance in the sentence, but erroneous in the second.

P. 296- Sometimes, human beings are ruined by the evil they had to bear. Then it is impossible and cynic to try to make evil less evil.

Native English speakers (and readers) will recognize the problem here immediately: ‘cynic’ is the right word in the wrong form.  ‘Cynical’ is the form needed.

Suffice it to say, then, that this exceptionally brilliant volume is not lessened in usefulness by these and other linguistic missteps.  But allowing a native English speaker to work through the English essays in future editions will provide a quite easy fix to many of the tiny errors which are found here and there.

This collection of essays is the sort of work that should find a place on every theologian’s shelf.  The subject, eschatology, is central to Christian theology.  The essays approach the topic from such a wide variety of perspectives that no one who picks up this volume will fail to learn a lot.  I know I did.  And I promise, you will as well.

Enjoy.

I Didn’t Win The Nobel Prize for Literature… But You Can Still Be a Winner…

And get The Commentary that should have won.

The ‘Person in the Pew’ commentary series is the only series of Commentaries written by a single person on the entire Bible and aimed at layfolk in modern history.

the-person-the-pew-commentary-series

The books are all available from yours truly for a paltry $199 by clicking my PayPal Link.  It’s a good commentary.

Act fast.  Frankly, my ego has taken a hit by not winning the Literature prize but you can cheer me up by getting your own copy of the greatest commentary series ever written ever.

The Post-Marburg Glow…

Zwingli reached home on the 19th of October. In reporting the conference at Zurich he claimed the victory for himself. “The truth,” said he, “has so manifestly gained the victory that if the shameless and obstinate Luther be not beaten, there never was anyone beaten, although he never ceases boasting to the contrary.” Despite the boasting of both leaders, they refrained, as they had agreed to do, from the unseemly abuse in which they had so freely indulged previous to the conference.*

Luther too claimed the palm but he also suffered pretty acute depression on his way home.  All in all, the conference was pretty much like presidential debates: no one changes their mind but it’s interesting to watch just so you can read the funny tweets.

_________________
*Samuel Simpson, Life of Ulrich Zwingli: The Swiss Patriot and Reformer (New York: Baker & Taylor Co., 1902), 207–208.