Monday, December 25, 2017

New Book Presents Evidence Christmas Story of Visit by Wise Men Was ‘Historically True’

For many years, skeptical scholars have tended to dismiss the Christmas story of the “wise men from the East” as pious legend.  Matthew’s gospel offers few details, but imaginative Christians filled out the story early on, giving us the three kings guided by a magical star who join the adoring shepherds in every Christmas crèche.

For many scholars, then, there is no reason to take the gospel story seriously.  But are they right?  Are the wise men no more than a poetic fancy?

In an impressive feat of detective work, Dwight Longenecker makes a powerful case that the visit of the Magi to Bethlehem really happened.  Piecing together the evidence from biblical studies, history, archeology, and astronomy, he goes further, uncovering where they came from, why they came, and what might have happened to them after eluding the murderous King Herod.

In the process, he provides a new and fascinating view of the time and place in which Jesus Christ chose to enter the world.

The evidence is clear and compelling.  According to Longenecker's research, the mysterious Magi from the East were astrologers and counselors from the court of the Nabatean king at Petra, where the Hebrew messianic prophecies were well known.  The “star” that inspired their journey was a particular planetary alignment―confirmed by computer models―that in the astrological lore of the time portended the birth of a Jewish king.

The visitors whose arrival troubled Herod “and all Jerusalem with him” may not have been the turbaned oriental kings of the Christmas carol, but they were real; and by demonstrating that the wise men were no fairy tale, Mystery of the Magi demands a new level of respect for the historical claims of the gospel.

Purchase Mystery of the Magi on Amazon.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Apocalypse Now?

You would’ve thought they were preparing for the apocalypse.

Former Obama White House Ethics Chief, Walter Shaub, tweeted that he was “stocking up” on gear to “take the streets.”  In his words, it was supposed to be a “defining moment for the Republic.”

Actor-turned-activist George Takei tweeted that Americans should “shut the country down.”

Cenk Uygur, the founder and CEO of far-left online news show “The Young Turks” prophesied that this should be an “uprising like we’ve never seen in America.”

Former Attorney General Eric Holder drew what he called an “absolute red line.”

Their message was clear: if President Trump fires special counsel Robert Mueller, the American people should act as if this country's 241-year-old experiment in democracy has come to an end.

But unfortunately for them, when asked about the firing on Sunday night, the president shut down all of the rumors (and all of their plans) by simply declaring, “no, I’m not.”  In an instant, he vanquished all the left’s dreams of sparking a “Tahrir Square like uprising” and made their hysterics over the potential firing appear foolish.

Make no mistake.  The left will soon find another issue (or rumor of an issue) to incense their base and stir up outrage in our country.  Eventually, they’ll draw a new red line and then pray that the president crosses it.  Their dream of widespread panic isn’t going away—it’s just deferred for a little while.

The real problem is this:

First, regardless of their empty assurances that their uprising will be peaceful—their rhetoric says otherwise.  They pay lip service to holding a peaceful protest while using inflammatory language like “stock up on gear” and “shut down the country.”  But if there is anything that “Antifa” has taught the United States, it’s that there are plenty members of the far-left with no intentions of keeping the peace.

You can’t spew alarmist, end-of-the-world rhetoric and then expect your base to respond with careful, dignified street protests.  It doesn’t work that way.  Leaders have a unique duty to dial down their followers’ radical impulses.  Instead, it seems that some culture leaders prefer to do exactly the opposite.

Second, the liberals’ selective outrage is appalling., the organization behind the protests, made their motto “nobody is above the law.”  Ostensibly, that’s an idea that both sides of the aisle could support.  Patriotic Americans would agree that all citizens are equal under the law.  But to many who hold progressive political views, that idea only applies to one end of the political spectrum.

These same activists made no calls for mass protests after former FBI Director James Comey cleared Hillary Clinton of criminal charges a year ago.  There was no indignation from these folks after it came to light that the FBI altered the language in Comey’s statement in Clinton's favor.  They have no outrage about a so-called "independent" prosecutor who employs team members who worked for the Clinton campaign and FBI agents whose e-mails reveal they had a plan to take down candidate Trump in case he was elected.  That’s why it’s difficult to believe that these activists are genuinely motivated to uphold the rule of law, and not just their own political ideologies.

One thing is true: the President’s words may have temporarily halted what the left saw as a “defining moment for the republic.”  But they will find new opportunities.  New pots to stir.  And new calls for chaos.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Bigoted Progressive Church of Sweden Refuses To Call God By His Preferred Gender Pronouns

Last week, the Babylon Bee (a satirical website) ran an article entitled, "Bigoted Progressive Christian Refuses To Call God By His Preferred Pronouns."  Well, life didn't waste any time imitating art, with this (real) news from the Church of Sweden: "Priests to be banned from calling God 'he' or 'the Lord' in bid to be gender neutral."

The Bible tells us that God has a name (YHWH).  But the Jews had such reverence for God's name that they refused to use it, though they had other names for God: Adonai, El Shaddai, etc. that reflected his Personhood.  Jesus taught his followers to call God "Father."  And Jesus couldn't call God "Mother" because he had a mother, and she wasn't God.  The YHWH of the Old Testament was/is Jesus' Father; and, the precious truth of the Gospel and the New Testament is that, if we are in Christ, his Father becomes our Father.

But more recently, especially in the West, we simply refer to God as "God."  And when you do that, you can invest that rather ambiguous name with any content (or gender) of your choosing.  You can create a god to fit your liking or your perceived needs.  But that is the very essence of idolatry.  (Side note: The god of philosophy is not the Christian God.)

But in order for God to be God--in fact, and not merely in our imagination, he has to have an objective existence and identity.  (The late Francis Schaeffer had that right: the two most essential things a person must know about God are summed up in two of Schaeffer's books: The God Who is There; and He is There and He Is Not Silent.) 

God has an objectively real identity; and in order for us to know God, he has to have revealed himself to us, which he has done in the words of the Bible.  The Bible is God's Word written, just as Jesus of Nazareth is the Word of God Incarnate.  So, either we stick to the imagery and identity of God as he has revealed himself in the Bible and in the Person of Jesus Christ, or else we are just making it all up.  And this, apparently, is what the Church of Sweden and other theological liberals in our day want to do.

From The Mirror (UK) [with my comments added in bold type and brackets]:
The Church of Sweden, which is headed by a woman, made the decision during an eight-day meeting but not everyone is happy with the new rules.

Church clergy have been told to refer to God using gender-neutral language, dropping masculine words such as He and Lord.

The order came after more than 250 members of The Church of Sweden, which is a Evangelical Lutheran church, met to discuss ways of updating a 31-year-old handbook that sets out how services should be conducted.  [Just wait until the Episcopal Church (USA) comes out wth its new Prayer Book, possibly as early as next year's General Convention.]

The church is headed by a woman, Archbishop Antje Jackelen, who told Sweden’s TT news agency the church had been discussing using more inclusive language since its 1986 conference. [Because if you have been talking about it for a long time, that makes it okay.]

She said: “Theologically, for instance, we know that God is beyond our gender determinations, God is not human.”  [God is not human, but God is a Person.  And personhood requires gender, which is why God chose to reveal himself to us in personal language and, ultimately, in the Person of Jesus Christ.  ("He who has seen me has seen the Father" (John 14:9).]

But not everyone is happy with the decision.

Christer Pahlmblad, an associate theology professor with Sweden’s Lund University, told Danish newspaper Kristeligt Dagblad the move was “undermining the doctrine of the Trinity and the community with the other Christian churches.”

He added: “It really isn’t smart if the Church of Sweden becomes known as a church that does not respect the common theology heritage.”  [And, more importantly, when you face God at the Last Day, he isn't going to be very happy either.]

The meeting lasted eight days and the decision was one of many made by the church’s 251-member decision-making body.

The new rules will come into affect on May 20 next year, which is the Christian holiday of Pentecost.

The Church of Sweden is known for its liberal position on many issues, particularly homosexuality.

When Eva Brunne became Bishop of Stockholm in 2009, she was the first openly lesbian bishop in the world.

The church has 6.1 million baptised members out of a country of 10 million people. [Because it is a state church and they baptize everyone who doesn't say no; yet they still only get about 200,000 people in church on the average Sunday.]

A Church of England spokesman told The Mirror its clergy will continue to refer to God as male. [For now.]

He said: “The Church of England has always used masculine language when speaking about God, for example in the words of the Lord’s Prayer – ‘our Father, who art in Heaven’ – and in referring to God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and continues to do so."

However, the spokesman said the C of E uses “inclusive” language when referring to people and, earlier this month, published guidelines on helping children “explore the possibilities of who they might be", including their gender identity.  [This is how it begins.]

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

That Pesky Women's Ordination Issue

From its inception in 2009, the Anglican Church in North America has included individuals on both sides of the issue of the ordination of women to the priesthood.  Some observers, including those who did not wish the newly-formed entity well, predicted that the ACNA would eventually split over the issue.  Nevertheless, nearly nine years later, the ACNA remains as one Church, sometimes ignoring and sometimes bumping into what could rightly be called, "the elephant in the room."

Those who would like to go on ignoring the elephant will have a much harder time doing so now that the Bishop of Fort Worth, the Rt. Rev. Jack L. Iker, has declared that a state of "impaired communion" exists in the ACNA over the issue.  In his address to the Diocese of Fort Worth convention last weekend, Bishop Iker commented on the ACNA's current dilemma:
So where are we?  Most ACNA bishops and dioceses are opposed to women priests, but as it presently stands, the ACNA Constitution says each diocese can decide if it will ordain women priests or not.  We now need to work with other dioceses to amend the Constitution to remove this provision.  As you know, women bishops are not permitted in any diocese, and no bishop wants to change that prohibition.
Earlier in his address, Bishop Iker had observed:
...when Archbishop Robert Duncan appointed the Task Force [in 2012], he charged them with doing a study of the issue of women in holy orders, but instructed them not to come to a conclusion or to make any recommendation as to how to resolve the debate.  The report simply summarizes the arguments for and against.  This is in stark contrast to a similar study done by the Anglican Mission in America several years ago, known as the Rodgers Report, which concluded that women cannot be ordained bishops or priests, while leaving open the door to the possibility of women deacons.  Those of us who agreed to the formation of the ACNA in 2009 did so with the clear understanding that a serious theological study would be done and that a decision would be made at that time.
I made the observation at the time the Task Force was appointed that the composition of this group seemed to be designed to arrive at a stalemate and, consequently to preserve the status quo of dioceses each following their own chosen position.  To some extent, that design was understandable: the last thing this newly-formed alliance of orthodox Anglicans from a variety of backgrounds needed was to have a potentially fatal schism so early in its life.

The problem is that this status quo is only tenable as long as: (1) Dioceses go about their business and ignore what is going on in other dioceses in terms of ordination; and (2) Dioceses continue to exist on the basis of affinity, allowing congregations to affiliate with a diocese not based on their geographical location, but on allegiance to a particular bishop, a particular style of churchmanship, and a particular position on the issue of the ordination of women.  For instance, the parish where I am rector is in Colorado but has, since before the formation of the ACNA, belonged to the Diocese of Quincy, based in Illinois.  The Diocese of Quincy ordains women to the diaconate but not the priesthood and includes congregations from Florida to Hawaii and from Wisconsin to Texas.  (And let me say, parenthetically, it is a good and wonderful diocese.)

On the other hand, there is the Diocese of Pittsburgh, which also includes parishes outside its former geographical boundaries and has, since before the formation of the ACNA, described itself as a diocese that embraces both positions on the ordination of women.  I have argued for years that, strictly speaking, this is not accurate.  The Diocese of Pittsburgh is a diocese that has an ordination process and a bishop that ordains women to the priesthood.  It merely includes some congregations that disagree with that position and will continue to do so until those congregations come to accept the prevailing position of the Diocese.  Don't misunderstand me, the Diocese of Pittsburgh is an amicable diocese, but once the diocesan processes and the Bishop are oriented toward the ordination of women to the priesthood, the atmosphere of the diocese puts an irresistible, if unintentional, pressure on those congregations that do not accept women priests; and it really can't be described as a diocese that embraces both positions.

The ACNA's problem is this: How can a Church that is divided over the definition of what it is to be a priest consider itself to be in unity?  And, in particular, what does it mean for a woman who is considered to be a priest in one part of the Church, but whose ministry is not recognized in another?  Those of us who spent years in the Episcopal Church are used to things being messier than this, which is perhaps why we have been able to live with the dissonance for so long.  But for a Church seeking to be faithful to the teachings of Christ, the implications of this disunity for the Church as a whole and for the women who have been ordained are huge.

So what is the ACNA to do?  First, from one end to the other, in every congregation, the ACNA needs to commit itself to a season of prayer and seek God's will regarding this issue.  People need to set aside their preconceived notions, however firmly held, and simply seek God's will for the good of the Church.  I say this so that we do not end up praying for our position to be victorious or "praying against" each other.  We are committing ourselves to seek God's will and nothing else.  This will require extreme humility and self-denial.  It will be especially hard for women who have already been ordained to the priesthood and have perhaps spent a significant part of their lives in this ministry.  We need to recognize this fact and maintain the highest possible respect for our sisters in Christ as we work through this issue.

Second, the Anglican Church in North America needs to come to a uniform understanding of what it means to be a catholic church.  We aren't making up church as we go along.  We are heirs of the Church Jesus founded on the apostles; we are compelled to stand in and conform ourselves to that tradition.  We need to come to an authentic Anglican understanding of the use of Scripture, Tradition, and Reason.

As I said in my essay, A Stool or a Tower, You Decide, I believe we need "to view Scripture, Tradition, and Reason as three ascending levels of a tower.  Scripture is the foundation.  Tradition rests on Scripture and is built upon it but cannot go where there is no foundation.  Reason rests on Scripture and Tradition and builds upon it but, again, cannot go where there is no supporting foundation."
Thus, Scripture provides the matter upon which our faith is based.  Tradition is the guide to our interpretation of Scripture.  It makes certain that our understanding of Scripture is not a matter of private interpretation but is, as in the canon laid down by Vincent of Lerins, in line with that which has been believed “everywhere, always, and by all”—the test of true catholicity.

Reason is the guide to our contemporary application of Scripture and Tradition.  This is a significant point: Reason is not an independent source of authority that is the arbiter of truth, it is the tool and the method by which we apply the truth (based in Scripture and interpreted by Tradition) to our contemporary experience.
Why is this important?  Because it is not the Church's business to make things up as we go along.  We are either the Church Jesus founded or we aren't.  As the 19th century Anglican theologian Charles Gore, by no means a conservative in matters of theology, pointed out:
First, let it be clear that the Church’s function is not to reveal truth.  The revelation given once for all to the Apostles cannot be either diminished or added to.  It is a faith “once for all delivered,” and the New Testament emphasizes the Church’s duty as simply that of “holding fast” and teaching what she has “received.”  The apostle St. Paul claims that his converts should repudiate even him—should treat him as anathema—if he were to teach anything else than what he taught at first.  It is thus of the very essence of the Christian revelation that, as originally given, it is final.  Whatever is new to Christian theology in substance, is by that very fact, proved not to be of the faith….
Gore then goes on to cite a number of patristic sources and then concludes:
It is not then a matter which needs proving, that novelty in revelation is equivalent to error, according to the fathers.  But this evident proposition leads to an important conclusion.  It follows that the authority of the Church is of a more secondary character than is sometimes supposed.  She is not a perpetual oracle of divine truth, an open organ of continuous revelation: she is not so much a “living voice” as a living witness to a “once-spoken voice.”
Gore made these comments in his book, Roman Catholic Claims (pp. 38-40) in which he argues that, in contrast with the Roman Catholic Church, which had departed from the faith and invented many dogmas, it is the Anglican Church that is truly biblical, apostolic, and catholic—believing that which the Church founded by Christ had believed from the beginning.

Third, the ACNA needs to undertake a new study of the ordination of women, with a task force of disinterested (not uninterested, but impartial) parties who, like the task force that undertook the study for the Anglican Mission in America in 2002, are prepared to look objectively at arguments from Scripture, Tradition, and Reason regarding the role of women in ministry.

Fourth, the ACNA needs to commit itself to live according to the results of this study.  And if, ultimately, that is not possible, then the ACNA needs to divide into two entities that remain under the Anglican umbrella, in much the same way as the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA) and the Reformed Episcopal Church (REC) live under the ACNA umbrella now.  Their bishops would meet in two separate colleges (as well as together as they see fit).  They would acknowledge that a state of impaired communion exists, as Bishop Iker has indicated; and perhaps this separation will compel them to seek the unity they have been unable to find thus far.

Finally, It is imperative that, if it comes to it, that the two entities remain in relationship with each other to the greatest extent possible.  A schism in the ACNA could be fatal for the burgeoning movement, with disastrous effects on orthodox Anglicanism around the globe.  There are some expressions within the ACNA that, without the influence of the whole, could forget what it is to be Anglican.  Then there are other expressions within the ACNA that could, left to their own, become just another continuing Anglican Church only using a newer Prayer Book.  It must not come to this.  Jesus expects better of us.  We are the Church that has Scripture, Tradition, and Reason as our guide.  We are the Church that has the Sacraments our Lord gave us.  We are the Body of Christ that has the Holy Spirit indwelling us and leading us.  We can and we must do better, for the glory of Christ's Name.

I offer these observations with fervent prayer for the welfare of orthodox Anglicanism and the unity of the Church for which Jesus prayed (John 17).

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

A Stool or a Tower? You Decide

The following is an article that I wrote in 2005 and was published in a number of places, but not on my own blog. I am publishing it here for the first time because I will refer to it in my next post.

The classic Anglican theologian to whom later Anglicans have looked in speaking of sources of authority in the Church is Richard Hooker.  Hooker listed the sources of authority as Scripture, tradition, and reason [not necessarily in that order, but that is a subject for another day].

Later writers have, by way of analogy, described these three sources as a “three-legged stool.”  This analogy has led some people to speculate (sometimes tongue-in-cheek) on the relative length of the three legs, and in so doing, to treat the sources as independent entities of differing value, or even to pit them against each other.  Thus, while I agree absolutely with Hooker on the three sources, I find the later analogy to be flawed and open to misinterpretation.  (The reference to Hooker’s sources as the “three-legged stool” is so ubiquitous in Anglican circles that even the analogy is often mistakenly attributed to Hooker himself.)

It would, I believe, be better to view Scripture, Tradition, and Reason as three ascending levels of a tower.  Scripture is the foundation.  Tradition rests on Scripture and is built upon it but cannot go where there is no foundation.  Reason rests on Scripture and Tradition and builds upon it but, again, cannot go where there is no supporting foundation.

Thus, Scripture provides the matter upon which our faith is based.  Tradition is the guide to our interpretation of Scripture.  It makes certain that our understanding of Scripture is not a matter of private interpretation but is, as in the canon laid down by Vincent of Lerins, in line with that which has been believed “everywhere, always, and by all”—the test of true catholicity.

Reason is the guide to our contemporary application of Scripture and Tradition.  This is a significant point: Reason is not an independent source of authority that is the arbiter of truth, it is the tool and the method by which we apply the truth (based in Scripture and interpreted by Tradition) to our contemporary experience.

The 19th century Anglican theologian Charles Gore points out:
First, let it be clear that the Church’s function is not to reveal truth.  The revelation given once for all to the Apostles cannot be either diminished or added to.  It is a faith “once for all delivered,” and the New Testament emphasizes the Church’s duty as simply that of “holding fast” and teaching what she has “received.”  The apostle St. Paul claims that his converts should repudiate even him—should treat him as anathema—if he were to teach anything else than what he taught at first.  It is thus of the very essence of the Christian revelation that, as originally given, it is final.  Whatever is new to Christian theology in substance, is by that very fact, proved not to be of the faith….
Gore then goes on to cite a number of patristic sources and then concludes:
It is not then a matter which needs proving, that novelty in revelation is equivalent to error, according to the fathers.  But this evident proposition leads to an important conclusion.  It follows that the authority of the Church is of a more secondary character than is sometimes supposed.  She is not a perpetual oracle of divine truth, an open organ of continuous revelation: she is not so much a “living voice” as a living witness to a “once-spoken voice.” (Roman Catholic Claims, pp. 38-40.)
Thus, I would have to take issue with John Wesley, who expanded Hooker’s sources of authority to include experience as a fourth source in what has become known as The Wesleyan Quadrilateral.  It must be noted that by “experience” Wesley means godly experience.  And it also must be noted that Hooker used the term “Reason” in the 16th-17th century sense of “Right Reason”—the critical application of the mind to a fixed set of data.  Neither Hooker nor Wesley used reason or experience in the contemporary sense of “what seems good to me.”  Nevertheless, the tendency of contemporary theology has been to use both these categories in highly subjective ways.

The contemporary Anglican theologian, John Macquarrie, goes beyond Wesley’s addition of experience to add “revelation”—the perception of God’s activity in nature (as distinct from Scripture)—as a fifth source of authority.  He then adds culture (as distinct from tradition) as a sixth source of authority.  Thus, increasingly in contemporary theology, we are seeing the pendulum swing very far in the direction of the subjective, as opposed to the objective reference to Scripture and Tradition.

The misapplication of reason in matters of theology may be the legacy of the modern period, just as the subjective misuse of experience and culture may be the legacy of the postmodern period in which we now find ourselves.  The task, then, for those who engage in the Church’s proclamation of the Gospel—and who would keep that proclamation true to the faith “once for all delivered” to the saints—is to help the Church rediscover the “living witness” of catholic tradition to the “once-spoken voice” of God’s Word.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

A Warning from History for Communist China

Prompted by this:
China Urges Rural Christians to Replace Jesus Images with Xi Jinping

Chinese officials and residents in a rural area of Jiangxi province have revealed a government plan to “melt the hard ice” in the hearts of Christians towards communism by denying them pivotal poverty relief packages if they do not replace images of Jesus in their households with photos of President Xi Jinping.

One official stated that the move was necessary because Christians are “ignorant” and need to be taught to worship the state, not God.

Read the rest.
Totalitarian governments are all the same.  If a country followed the Judeo-Christian tradition (as the US used to do more than it does now) you would have a society that honored their parents, balanced work and rest, and didn't murder, steal, lie, commit sexual immorality, engage in profanity, or covet their neighbors' possessions.  What could be wrong with that?

But then you have the kicker: "You shall have no other gods but me."  And totalitarian governments, whether they are communist, socialist, nazi, or fascist, all want to replace God in the minds and hearts of their people.  They can't be content with merely running a constitutionally limited government, they want to rule every aspect of their people's lives.

So every one of these societies goes up against the Judeo-Christian tradition and ultimately loses—whether it is the ancient Egyptians, the Assyrians, Medes, Persians, Alexander the Great's Greek Empire, the Roman Empire, the Ottoman Empire, Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union—all far more powerful than the Jews and Christians they persecuted—and all gone with the wind.

So it will be for Communist China also.  And the Democratic Party that took God out of their platform had better learn from history too.

Saturday, November 04, 2017

Semper Reformanda!

From PJmedia, where there is more:

Anglicans Lead Martin Luther-Style 'Grassroots Protest' Against 'Progressive Christianity'

On Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, anonymous evangelical Anglicans posted a 95 Theses-style complaint on the doors of five British cathedrals. The first complaints went up on the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther's posting of the 95 Theses on the door of the Wittenberg Castle Church in Germany, and the documents pinned to the doors referenced Luther in calling for the Church of England to return to following the Bible.

"500 years ago, Martin Luther nailed 95 Theses to a church door in Germany," one document reads. "He did it because the church had become corrupt. Today a Declaration is being fixed to a cathedral door here in England because the Established Church in our land is becoming corrupt."

"The Church of England claims it has not changed its doctrine but its practice on the ground has already changed: clergy are adopting lifestyles which are not biblical and teaching that such lifestyles are holy in the sight of God," the document explained. "This revisionism is causing a crisis not only in Southwark Diocese but across the whole of the Church of England."

The document issued a very hefty charge. "When the church redefines sin and eliminates repentance, it can no longer offer the good news of eternal salvation from sin in Jesus; the church no longer remains distinctly Christian; it is no longer salt and light in the world," the declaration read.

This document ended with a clear Reformation-style challenge. "Where leaders refuse to repent and submit themselves to the Word of God, the Lord raises up new leadership for His church and new structures: just as He did through Martin Luther 500 years ago."

Read the rest.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Einstein note on modest living sells for $1.56 million

[Note: I have a Book that gives me essentially the same advice and a lot more, written by Someone more intelligent than Einstein, and it didn't cost me $1.56 million, even though it is worth a lot more.  Any guesses?]

Jerusalem - October 24 - A note that Albert Einstein gave to a courier in Tokyo briefly describing his theory on happy living sold at auction in Jerusalem on Tuesday for $1.56 million (1.33 million euros), the auction house said.

The winning bid for the note far exceeded the pre-auction estimate of between $5,000 and $8,000, according to the website of Winner's auction house.

"It was an all-time record for an auction of a document in Israel," Winner's spokesman Meni Chadad told AFP.

The buyer was a European who wished to remain anonymous, he said.

The note, on Imperial Hotel Tokyo stationery, says in German that "a quiet and modest life brings more joy than a pursuit of success bound with constant unrest."

Bidding, in person, online and by phone, started at $2,000. A flurry of offers pushed the price rapidly up for about 20 minutes until the final two potential buyers bid against each other by phone.

Applause broke out in the room when the sale was announced.

"I am really happy that there are people out there who are still interested in science and history and timeless deliveries in a world which is developing so fast," the seller told AFP on condition of anonymity after the sale.

A second Einstein note written at the same time that simply reads "where there's a will, there's a way" sold for $240,000, Winner's said.

The German-born physicist, most famous for his theory of relativity, was on a lecture tour in Japan when he handwrote the autographed notes, previously unknown to researchers, in 1922.

He had recently been informed that he was to receive the Nobel Prize for physics, and his fame outside of scientific circles was growing.

A Japanese courier arrived at the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo to deliver Einstein a message. The courier either refused to accept a tip, in line with local practice, or Einstein had no small change available..

Either way, Einstein didn't want the me ssenger to leave empty-handed, so he wrote him two notes by hand in German, according to the seller, a relative of the messenger.

"Maybe if you're lucky those notes will become much more valuable than just a regular tip," Einstein told the messenger, according to the seller, a resident of the German city of Hamburg.

- 'Stone in the mosaic' -

Two other letters Einstein wrote in later years were also auctioned on Tuesday, fetching prices of $33,600 and $9,600.

In June, letters written by Einstein about God, Israel and physics sold for nearly $210,000 at a Jerusalem auction.

Roni Grosz, the archivist in charge of the world's largest Einstein collection at Jerusalem's Hebrew University, said the notes shed light on the private thoughts of the great physicist, whose name has become synonymous with genius.

"What we're doing here is painting the portrait of Einstein -- the man, the scientist, his effect on the world -- through his writings," Grosz said.

"This is a stone in the mosaic."

Einstein served as a non-resident governor of Jerusalem's Hebrew University. When he died in 1955, he left the institution his archives, making it the owner of the world's most extensive collection of his documents.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Recipe for a Seminary

  • 1 part Theology, taught as the systematic exposition of God's self-revelation,
  • 1 part Biblical Studies, taught as God's divinely inspired Word,
  • 1 part Church History, because it is important to know how God has acted in history and in the life and ministry of the Church,
  • 1 part Pastoral Ministry, to equip the saints (all God's people) for the work of ministry,
  • 1 part Missions and Evangelism, to make disciples of every people group on earth, at home and abroad,
  • 1 part Godly Discernment, because there is no substitute for it in doing God's will,
  • 1 part Already Prepared Dough, this serves as the base for the rest of the ingredients,
  • 1 part Yeast of the Gospel, because the message and Spirit of Christ's atoning work must permeate all that we do.
Mix all ingredients thoroughly and allow to rise in a warm environment.  Bake until golden.  (Caution: Must not be underdone or half-baked.)


Theology — I have always begun any course I have taught by explaining that there are two ways one can teach theology: Either it is a speculative discipline grounded in philosophy, or it is a dogmatic discipline grounded in Scripture.  The first approach almost inevitably results in heterodoxy.  The second approach actually helps us to get to know the God who has revealed himself in the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments—the God Who Is, who exists in reality, and not merely our imagination.

The first approach, that Theology is a speculative discipline grounded in philosophy gives us the Pantheism of a Paul Tillich or the Panentheism of the Process Theologians or a Sallie McFague (often quoted by Katharine Jeffers Schori), who said that "theology is mostly fiction" — a construction, a human creation, a tool to delineate as best we can the nature and limits of our understanding of God.  This is what happens when you have a theology that begins with philosophy, that is, with us instead of a GOD WHO IS THERE, who exists objectively and has a concrete identity, and a God WHO HAS SPOKEN, who has revealed himself to humankind through creation, through the Covenant with Abraham, through the Law given through Moses, through the Prophets who called God's people to repentance and faithfulness, and ultimately through the sending of his eternal Son in the Person of Jesus of Nazareth.

In writing that last sentence, I cannot help but think of two books by Francis Schaeffer that I read ages ago: The God Who Is There and He is There and He is Not Silent.  Schaeffer was correct in identifying these two statements as the great watershed in all human reality.  Either God exists with a distinct identity that is objectively real and knowable, or else McFague is right, we are just making things up as we go along.  And either God has spoken by revealing himself in Holy Scripture and in the Person of Jesus, or else we can never truly know whether he exists and has a will and purpose for us or not.

The second approach, that Theology is a dogmatic discipline grounded in Scripture, gives us a framework that is built on the Solid Rock.  The first approach, that Theology is a speculative discipline grounded in philosophy, ultimately leads us to futility; it is a house built on nothing more than shifting sand.

Biblical Studies — I have always believed that to teach Biblical Studies in seminary, you must do more than teach about the Bible, you must teach the Bible--that is, you must enable students to master the contents of the Old and New Testaments and to have such a love for Scripture and such confidence in its divine inspiration and authority that they can communicate that love, knowledge, and confidence to the people they pastor in a way that is positively contagious.

Church History — It has often be said that those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it.  We need to be aware of how the Church has read and interpreted Scripture.  We need to be inspired by great heroes of the Faith.  We need to know about Councils and decisions of the Church in ages past so that we can recognize and deal with the heresies that crop up in this and every age.  We need to learn how God has acted in history and what the Church has done, both its failures and its successes, so that we do not repeat its failures (mistakes and heresies) but rather build on its successes.

Pastoral Ministry — We are called to be a caring presence to those whom we pastor.  But we are to be more than that.  We are called to make disciples, to lead others effectively to follow Jesus.  All that we do with parishioners must build them up "until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ" (Ephesians 4:13).  It takes thoughtful training by skilled teachers to learn how to do this well.

Missions and Evangelism — The ultimate aim of the Church must be to fulfill Christ's Great Commission, to make disciples (learners, followers of Jesus) of every language, tribe and tongue, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and teaching them to observe everything that Christ commanded.  And, for that task, Jesus has given us his authority and the assurance of his continued presence with us.  Does every seminary turn out graduates who see that as the aim of their ministries?  Do they turn out graduates who know how to lead others to commit their lives to Jesus as Savior and Lord?  No, sadly, they do not.  Yet Jesus said this is the one thing the Church must do.  We need for this to be of utmost importance in seminary training and the thing toward which our knowledge of theology, the Bible, and history point us.

Godly discernment — Looking back on more than thirty years in theological education, one thing I have been blessed with is an ability to discern what people need to know to be formed as followers of Jesus, how it needs to be taught, and just as importantly, by whom it needs to be taught.  This was the key to building a great faculty at Nashotah House.  The founding Dean of Trinity School for Ministry, Bishop Alfred Stanway, used to say, "Under God, having the right people is the key."  I have always found that to be true.  The key to keeping a school orthodox is, first of all, having faculty and trustees who are committed followers of Jesus Christ and who understand that, as James 4:4 says, "friendship with the world is enmity with God."  That is to say, we recognize that there are worldly values that are in conflict with the Gospel and the teaching of Scripture; and when those values collide, our unswerving allegiance must be to Jesus Christ our Lord, who saved us and "bought us with a price" (1 Corinthians 6:20, 7:23).

I could wish that this kind of godly discernment were as widespread as the waters that cover the sea; but it is not.  It is tempting to think that if someone can run a parish, a cathedral, or a diocese, then he can run a seminary.  But these are different vocations and require different skill sets.  One might think that anyone who is articulate and well-versed in a particular subject with an education from a prestigious school can teach; but the formation that goes on in seminary is much more than merely teaching.  In choosing faculty, you have to discern spiritually whom God is calling to be a shepherd and disciple-maker in a given context.  The type of person called for even varies according to the discipline being taught. 

I look at the decisions being made in some seminaries and am aghast: "Why can't you see that this is the wrong person to put in that position?"  Were I to ask the question, I would get the answer, "but he/she had a great resume."  Or "He/she seems like a nice person."  Or worse yet, "He/she will give balance to the faculty."  We all know that the road to hell is paved with good intentions.  Either you seek God's will in this matter (and pray until you sweat blood, if necessary) and get this right, or else you sink your own ship.  It is both that hard and that simple.

Already Prepared Dough — The cost of a three year seminary education has risen astronomically in the past 30 years.  In contrast with Methodists, Presbyterians, and Baptists, Anglicans and Episcopalians have historically provided relatively little financial assistance (other than bequests) to seminaries or students attending seminary.  Anglican parishes, dioceses and jurisdictions still want the best-trained clergy, but they have never gotten into the habit of paying for them.  So we are looking at a financial crisis affecting all theological seminaries today, but it is affecting Anglican/Episcopal seminaries more than most.  (You haven't seen any Methodist or Presbyterian seminaries closing lately, have you?)

Those who can give generously, and that includes people of even modest means who will give sacrificially, need to realize that giving financially in order to train the future leadership of the Church is the most important investment they can make with their giving.  It is an investment in the future of the Church itself.  And it is an investment in making sure we have leaders and equippers who will insure that we fulfill Christ's great commission.

The Yeast of the Gospel — If "having the right people is the key" what makes those people the "right people?"  A seminary must have exceptional teachers who reflect their love for God and for students in what they do.  They must be continually aware of all that the Person and atoning work of Christ mean for their personal lives and ministries, and communicate this humble awareness to their students.  They must be uncompromising in their faithfulness and very committed to seeing that what they teach enables their graduates to go out as priests and leaders who can transform lives and congregations.

So there it is.  It may seem like a simple recipe, but it isn't.  I would venture to say that 9 out of 10 seminaries get it wrong.  It is these seminaries that cause those who are concerned for the renewal of the Church to think that a seminary education is unnecessary or even harmful.  But truly biblically faithful, Spirit-filled, seminary education is not only a beautiful thing, it is indispensable if we are to have wise, knowledgeable, godly leadership for the future of the Church.


POSTSCRIPT: What prompted me to share this recipe was the tragic death this week of Fr. Daniel Westberg, Nashotah House's Professor of Ethics and Moral Theology, who embodied all the exceptional qualities I have mentioned.  In writing it down, I was reminded of an interview about Nashotah House that I had given to David Virtue in 2009, and I was reminded just how tasty the recipe is and how much I enjoyed making it.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Nashotah House Announces Passing of Beloved Professor

Fr. Daniel Westberg in front of Nashotah House's
historic Blue House (1842) with  Upper Nashotah Lake
in the background
I was very saddened today to receive a phone call letting me know that a good friend and former colleague had died tragically.  Father Daniel Westberg, Nashotah House's Professor of Ethics and Moral Theology died while sailing on Upper Nashotah Lake, the first in a chain of clear, spring-fed lakes on which the campus is located.

On Wednesday, Fr. Westberg celebrated and preached at the Eucharist that morning.  It was a sunny day, with the trees on the Nashotah campus displaying their fall colors.  Nashotah House is beautiful at any time, but the fall colors can be truly spectacular.

Fr. Westberg went for a sail on the lake in his own boat, alone.  Apparently he was not wearing a life vest.  Neighbors summoned police and rescuers around 1 p.m. when they heard shouts of distress coming from the lake.  Fr. Westberg became separated from the boat, perhaps trying to swim to shore.  Rescuers searched until dark on Wednesday without locating Fr. Westberg.  The search resumed this morning and his body was found.

Fr. Westberg had been a professor at Nashotah House since 2000.  Previously, he taught at the University of Virginia (1990-98) and Wycliffe College, Toronto (1998-2000).  He earned the DPhil at Oxford, studying under the renowned Anglican ethicist, Oliver O'Donovan, who was Regius Professor of Moral and Pastoral Theology, and the Dominican scholar Herbert McCabe, OP.  His dissertation was on Thomas Aquinas and the virtue of prudence.

Fr. Westberg's most recent book was Renewing Moral Theology: Christian Ethics as Action, Character and Grace (InterVarsity Press, 2015).  He co-authored Preaching the Lectionary (3rd ed.; Liturgical Press, 2006) with the late Professor Reginald Fuller.

It was exceedingly gratifying to have served as Fr. Westberg's dean for ten and colleague at Nashotah House for twelve years.  Dan had a brilliant mind and keen sense of humor.  He had a quiet demeanor--a gentle man and a gentleman.  As a professor, he was a friend and mentor who spent time with his students and truly cared about their spiritual as well as their intellectual formation.  But, above all, he was a godly man who truly lived the faith he proclaimed.  Dan's tragic death is a great loss for Nashotah House.  He will be missed by all who knew him, but especially by his wife Lisa, his father, a brother and three sisters, four adult children, and three grandchildren who survive him.

We commend our brother into the loving arms of God.  May he rest in peace and may light perpetual shine upon him.  Our prayers go out for Lisa and Dan's family.
  • Nashotah House's press release is here.
  • Coverage from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel is here.
  • WDJT Milwaukee has coverage here.

Monday, October 16, 2017

A Great Lesson on Stress Management

A young lady confidently walked around the room with a raised glass of water while leading a seminar and explaining stress management to her audience.  Everyone knew she was going to ask the inevitable question, 'Half empty or half full?'

She fooled them all.  "How heavy is this glass of water?" she inquired with a smile.  Answers called out ranged from 8 oz. to 20 oz.

She replied, "The absolute weight doesn't matter.  It depends on how long I hold it.  If I hold it for a minute, that's not a problem.  If I hold it for an hour, I'll have an ache in my right arm."

"If I hold it for a day, you'll have to call an ambulance.  In each case it's the same weight, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes."

She continued, "And that's the way it is with stress.  If we carry our burdens all the time, sooner or later, as the burden becomes increasingly heavy, we won't be able to carry on."

"As with the glass of water, you have to put it down for a while and rest before holding it again.  When we're refreshed, we can carry on with the burden - holding stress longer and better each time practiced."

"So, as early each day as you can, put all your burdens down.  Don't carry them through the evening and into the night.  Pick them up again tomorrow if you must."

1. Accept the fact that some days you're the pigeon, and some days you're the statue!

2. Always keep your words soft and sweet, just in case you have to eat them.

3. Always read stuff that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it..

4. Drive carefully.  It's not only cars that can be recalled by their Maker.

5. If you can't be kind, at least have the decency to be vague.

6. If you lend someone $20 and never see that person again, it was probably worth it.

7. It may be that your sole purpose in life is simply to serve as a warning to others.

8. Never buy a car you can't push.

9. Never put both feet in your mouth at the same time, because then you won't have a leg to stand on.

10. Nobody cares if you can't dance well.  Just get up and dance.

11. Since it's the early worm that gets eaten by the bird, sleep late.

12. The second mouse gets the cheese.

13. When everything's coming your way, you're in the wrong lane.

14. Birthdays are good for you.  The more you have, the longer you'll live.

15. Some mistakes are too much fun to make only once.

16. We could learn a lot from crayons.  Some are sharp, some are pretty and some are dull.  Some have weird names and all are different colors; but they all have to live in the same box.

17. A truly happy person is one who can enjoy the scenery on a detour.

18. Contentment is not the fulfillment of what you want, but the realization of how much you already have.

19. Be the kind of person that when your feet hit the floor each morning the devil says: "Oh Crap, they're up!"


20. Save the earth. It's the only planet with chocolate!

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Yom Kippur: The Day of Atonement

The High Priest's Confession on the Day of Atonement:

"I beseech You, O Lord;
I have sinned, rebelled, and transgressed against You,
I, and my household;
I beseech You, O Lord,
Grant atonement for the sins,
and for the iniquities and transgressions
which I have committed against You,
I, and my household.
As it is written in the Torah
of Your servant, Moses:
'For on this day
atonement shall be made for you,
to purify you from all your sins
— before the Lord you shall be purified'."

Sunday, September 24, 2017

352 Earthquakes Hit Southern California Last Week

I don't remember hearing much about this in the media, do you?
The 352-event earthquake storm that hit Southern California last week failed to cause appropriate concern due to the magnitude 7.1-magnitude monster that killed 295 in Mexico City.

The Southern California quakes ranged from magnitude 0.30 to 3.65 on the Richter Scale, according to the Caltech Seismological Laboratory. Although most of the “storm” quakes were small, 18 were large enough to make the Felt Report, which tracks noticeable events over a 2.0 magnitude.

Elevated earthquake activity seemed spread across the Pacific coasts, with big quakes recorded in New Zealand, Indonesia, Philippines, Japan — and lots of after-shocks in Mexico.

A 3.4 magnitude quake in North Korea, while the U.S. Air Force was buzzing its airspace with a fleet of B-1 nuclear-capable bombers and a large number of F-15 escorts, was thought to have been another nuclear test by the North Koreans. But world tensions subsided after the BBC reported that atomic energy experts labeled it just an earthquake.
Read the rest.
And when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. This must take place, but the end is not yet.  For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. These are but the beginning of the birth pains. (Mark 13:7-9)

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Evensong sees a surge even as British church attendance declines

From here, where there is more:
LONDON (RNS) — The line of locals and tourists stretches about 400 people long, and one might think they are waiting to get into a play, a museum or even for ice cream.

But these people want to go to a church service.

In Britain, where churchgoing is mostly in decline, what has drawn the crowd on a late afternoon in August is evensong, the hymn-heavy evening service of the Anglican church taken from the Book of Common Prayer. This line was headed for the service at the famed Westminster Abbey, sometimes called England’s parish church.

Abbey officials estimate that there can be up to 700 people at evensong when the main choir is singing. Similar crowds can be found across Britain in cathedrals such as York Minster and St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, and in Oxford and Cambridge.

But even in much smaller churches, evensong attendance is growing, attracting people who might otherwise never enter a church, and bucking the British trend in declining congregations. Some clergy are hopeful that it may be a way people are drawn into a deeper relationship with the church.
Read the rest.

If you would like to hear a Choral Evensong, there are loads of them on YouTube. One of my favorites, featuring the choir of Liverpool Cathedral (and England's largest pipe organ) is here.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Indiana Teacher Demands Parents Tell Kids to Stop Talking About God in Class

Religiophobia: (Noun) An irrational or obsessive fear or anxiety of religion, religious faith, religious people or religious organizations.  See also religiophobe, religiophobic.

From here:
MCCORDSVILLE, Ind. – Parents of McCordsville Elementary School students are upset after a first grade teacher sent home a letter asking kids not to talk about “God,” “Jesus,” and the “Devil.”

According to a release from the school, a debate about God took place in a first grade classroom earlier this week.  In response to the debate, the teacher wrote a letter about expectations in the classroom and sent it to parents.  The letter talked about school language and asked parents to have a “talk” with their children about the appropriate time and place to talk about religion.

[Notice that the teacher's letter (see photo above) doesn't say anything about a "debate."  It merely says the students were "using the words God, Jesus, and Devil in conversation."]

FOX59 obtained the letter from a parent of one of the students in the class, which reads in part:

“With Mccordsville Elementary being a public school, we have many different religions and beliefs, and I do not want to upset a child or parent because of these words being used.”

[Frankly, I doubt that McCordsville, Indiana (population: 6,485) actually has "many different religions and beliefs," whatever this relgiophobic, politically correct teacher may think.  But, even if it does have "many different religions and beliefs," all of those 6,485 residents, including their children, still have a First Amendment right to discuss their religion(s)—as the school superintendent rightly clarifies:]

But a letter from the Mt. Vernon Community School Corporation Superintendent Dr. Robbins says it is okay for students to talk about their beliefs as long as it does not disrupt class.

“To simply summarize, MVCSC employees can neither advance nor inhibit religious views.  Trying to limit a student’s view on religion is a violation of a student’s first amendment rights.  However, if the discussion becomes an academic disruption, then as a district, we can intervene to maintain the integrity of the educational process while at the same time being sure to not violate a student’s constitutional rights.”

District officials say they have met with the teacher about the school’s policies.  It is unclear whether she will face any disciplinary action.
When I was growing up two of the teachers in my elementary school were also Sunday School teachers at my church.  Two other teachers that I know of were Sunday School teachers in other churches.  Could we talk about God, Jesus, etc. Monday through Friday the same as we did on Sunday?  Well, perhaps not exactly the same as we did on Sunday; but religion wasn't a forbidden subject.  The end result was that we developed an integrated worldview where religion was a part of life, right along with math, science, history, literature, etc. 

We learned the Golden Rule (Do unto others as you would have them do unto you) wasn't just in the Bible, it was sound ethics and a good guideline for building a healthy society where people respected and cared about each other.  Needless to say, bullying wasn't as much of a problem as it has become once we started taking things like God, the Bible, the Golden Rule, etc. out of our schools. 

If Christian parents don't stand up for our First Amendment freedoms, we are soon going to have a society where even common courtesy has disappeared and where our social ethics resemble the Lord of the Flies.

I'm just sayin'...

Monday, August 14, 2017

Anne Graham Lotz: I Will Not Be Celebrating the Eclipse—Gives Prophetic Warning About Significance

Billy Graham’s daughter, Anne Graham Lotz, has written a new blog post in light of the impending solar eclipse set to take place on August 21, 2017, titled “Is God’s Judgment Coming on America?”

Lotz likens the scheduled eclipse-viewing parties and celebratory nature of “The Great American Eclipse” to the drunken feast thrown by King Belshazzar of Babylon in the book of Daniel. “While Belshazzar and his friends partied, they were oblivious to the impending danger. Belshazzar wound up dead the next day, and the Babylonian empire was destroyed,” she said.

Included in the post is a video from Australian pastor Steve Cioccolanti who discusses the signs in the Bible that point to the possible significance of the upcoming eclipse.

Lotz concluded by saying, “Regardless of whether or not the conjecture regarding America’s Eclipse is accurate, we know our nation and our world is in turmoil. Without doubt this is the time for God’s people to get right with God. To repent of our own sin. To share the gospel with our neighbors. And to pray that in the midst of his coming wrath, God would remember mercy” (Habakkuk 3:2).

Read Anne Graham Lotz' blog post.
Watch Pastor Steve Cioccolanti's video.

Sunday, August 06, 2017

Kissinger Warns: Growing Danger of an ‘Iranian Radical Empire’

If the Islamic State is destroyed, the situation in the Middle East could end up being even more dire with the emergence of an “Iranian radical empire” in its wake, former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger warned in an article published by CapX this week.

Kissinger cautioned that in the case of ISIS and Iran, the old aphorism “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” no longer holds true, since driving out the Sunni terror group would leave a “territorial belt reaching from Tehran to Beirut” that Iranian-trained Shia forces could occupy.
Across large areas of Iraq and Syria, an ideologically radical religious army, Isis, has declared itself a relentless foe of modern civilisation, seeking violently to replace the international system’s multiplicity of states with a single Islamic empire governed by Sharia law. In these circumstances, the traditional adage that the enemy of your enemy can be regarded as your friend no longer applies. In the contemporary Middle East, the enemy of your enemy may also be your enemy. The Middle East affects the world by the volatility of its ideologies as much as by its specific actions.
The outside world’s war with Isis can serve as an illustration. Most non-Isis powers — including Shia Iran and the leading Sunni states — agree on the need to destroy it. But which entity is supposed to inherit its territory? A coalition of Sunnis? Or a sphere of influence dominated by Iran? The answer is elusive because Russia and the Nato countries support opposing factions. If the Isis territory is occupied by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards or Shia forces trained and directed by it, the result could be a territorial belt reaching from Tehran to Beirut, which could mark the emergence of an Iranian radical empire.

The 94-year-old former secretary of state has in the past warned that the Middle East will “explode” if the “domination of the region by an Iran that is both imperial and jihadist” is allowed to continue.

Over the years, I have observed that Kissinger is more likely to be right when Israel's national security is at stake than when it is the US the is on the line. This is one of those instances.  (Essentially, Kissinger is working for the wrong government.)  He is absolutely right about the potential danger of a Shia Empire stretching from Tehran to Beirut.  But the immediate danger would be to Israel.  That is not to dismiss the danger.  Iran's territorial ambitions resemble Nazi Germany in the 1930's only set on a different continent.  With the NATO powers on one side and Russia on the other, this could be the setting for the start of WWIII.

"Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: 'May those who love you be secure.'" (Psalm 122:6)


Thursday, July 13, 2017

Sometimes You Have To Fight To Do What is Right

It seems like hardly a week goes by without my reading of some food service employee refusing to serve or doing something to insult a police officer.  Either that or I read about some employee getting fired for giving free food to a police officer or military personnel.

When are these stupid corporations going to learn?  Real Americans like our police officers and military personnel.  We salute them, and we salute employees and businesses that respect these brave men and women who put their lives on the line in order that security, peace, and order, both at home and abroad, might be preserved.

I've never written about this topic before.  But after seeing this story from Katy, Texas, I just had to.
Texas police department commends teen nearly fired for offering cop free cookie

A Texas police department on Wednesday honored a teen who was almost fired for buying an officer a free cookie earlier this month.

Katy Police Department posted a photo on Facebook of Zachary Randolph, 18, with three officers, commending the teen for his "selfless deed."

"It was our pleasure to finally meet the young man from Great American Cookies, who did a selfless deed despite what others may have thought," the Facebook caption said.  "Sergeant McClure and the rest of the Katy Police Department would like to say thank you for supporting law enforcement and going the extra step to show your appreciation."

Randolph was working at the Great American Cookie Company in Katy Mills when he offered to pay for an officer's cookie, his mother Tami Randolph wrote in a Facebook post on July 5.  She claimed a family in the store verbally attacked him after the kind act and said, "Are you going to buy mine too?"  They also accused him of being racist and vowed to get the teen fired, according to the post.

Days after the incident, the company managers called the teen in and "wanted him fired."  He was ultimately placed on suspension.

"Thankfully his manager refused and said you are an excellent worker and and everyone agreed that you did nothing wrong," the mother wrote in the post.

"Since when does buying a police officer a cookie give anyone else a reason to attack someone?  And when did a Corporation want to FIRE someone for being KIND...?
When indeed?

Read the rest.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Putting the 'Judeo' Back in 'Judeo-Christian'

PJ Media has an interesting piece, which raises an important question about how Christians should relate to the Jewish roots of Christianity. I am taking the liberty of reproducing the article here in its entirety. But I do encourage you to visit the PJ Media site where there are many more excellent articles:
There’s a fascinating book review (I haven’t read the book itself) published online June 22 at Christianity Today whose topic tracks a question I’ve asked in writing for years. As I put it in a column years ago at the Mobile Register, “why aren’t Christians more Jewish?”

What I mean (and have written several times) is that even a fair amount of theological study hasn’t given me an answer to why Christians don’t still celebrate a lot of Jewish customs and holidays. Why don’t we still memorialize Yom Kippur or the Passover seder? Why don’t we light the candles of Hanukkah? Jesus and his disciples did, so why don’t we? Christianity was built on the foundation of Judaism, so why do we ignore so much of that foundation?

Obviously, our Pauline theology explains why we aren’t subject to every jot and tittle of every law in Leviticus, but we still are of a faith that cannot be understood without an understanding of our Jewish roots – and there is no good reason why major Jewish observances shouldn’t also be Christian ones.

All of which can serve as a predicate for Nathan Finn’s Christianity Today review of Gerald McDermott’s Israel Matters: Why Christians Must Think Differently about the People and the LandExplains Finn:

McDermott is part of a group of scholars who identify with the “New Christian Zionism” movement. Their goal is to convince contemporary believers that Israel is not the backstory of the church, but a key part of the future of the faith. In  Israel Matters, McDermott makes a nuanced case for the centrality of Israel in redemptive history—past, present, and future.

Jesus and his earliest followers never set aside Israel so they could establish a primarily Gentile religion. Jesus was a faithful Jew, as were most of his earliest disciples, including all of the apostles. Gentile believers have been grafted into Israel by faith, and while the Mosaic covenant has been fulfilled through the death and resurrection of Jesus, the Abrahamic covenant (God’s promise to make a great nation of Abraham’s descendants and bless them with land) continues to endure.

Simply put, God is not finished with the Jews, and the future of Gentile Christianity is closely tied to the fulfillment of God’s promises to Israel.

In short, Christians should look at the central tenets of Christianity and the central tenets of Judaism not as an either/or choice but as a both/and consummation. And we should open ourselves to “a fresh appreciation of the Jewishness of Jesus and his earliest followers.”

(Thank goodness, by the way, that most Christian denominations in the past 50 years have firmly rejected the once-prevalent understanding that Jews in general were responsible for the Crucifixion, rather than the historical and theological truth that the fault belonged only to a small group of Temple leaders and their most avid courtiers.)

Pope John Paul II was one of those firmly in the camp of “dual covenant theology” – another name for the beliefs also pushed by McDermott in the book being reviewed – and argued in a 1980 speech in Berlin that God’s covenant with the Jewish people had never been revoked. And in 1986 John Paul II said this: “With Judaism, therefore, we have a relationship which we do not have with any other religion. You are our dearly beloved brothers, and in a certain way, it could be said that you are our elder brothers.”

To be clear, this does not mean that the Polish pope or any of the Protestant leaders who have re-stressed Christianity’s Jewishness are arguing that Jesus isn’t the true path to salvation; what they aver is that we cannot separate Jesus from His Jewishness and that we cannot lessen the importance of the Old Covenant to our own faith.

There are many Jewish customs that not only do not contradict or undermine our New Covenant, but actually enrich it. Just because Christians are not required to eat only kosher food doesn’t mean we are not free to do so, or to join Jewish friends at a warm and festive seder meal.

Jews, of course, need not be Christians.* But there is a sense, and a truth, in which all Christians must be Jews.

Quin Hillyer is a veteran conservative columnist with a degree in theology. His faith-themed satirical novel, Mad Jones: Heretic, is due for publication this summer by Liberty Island Media.
[* I am not sure what the author means by this sentence,  but I read it in light of his earlier statement: "To be clear, this does not mean that the Polish pope or any of the Protestant leaders who have re-stressed Christianity’s Jewishness are arguing that Jesus isn’t the true path to salvation"...]

Thursday, June 08, 2017

GAFCON to consecrate Missionary Bishop for Scotland

From here, where there is more:
Today the Synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church voted to finalise a change to their canons that attempts to redefine marriage. This action further marginalises faithful Anglicans in Scotland who uphold Jesus’ teaching on marriage.

Recognising the pastoral need that arose following the initial SEC vote (in June 2016), in April of this year the Gafcon Primates authorised the consecration of a Missionary Bishop to care for those who seek to remain faithful to the scriptures and Jesus’ teaching on marriage.

Today at a press conference in Edinburgh, Scotland, Archbishop Foley Beach, speaking on behalf of the Primates Council, introduced the new Missionary Bishop:

Statement on Gafcon Missionary Bishop by Archbishop Foley Beach

Good afternoon. Thank you for being here today. I plan to make a brief statement. Canon Andy Lines will make a brief statement. Rev. David McCarthy will make a brief statement. And then we will have a time for questions.

I speak to you today as the Archbishop and Primate of the Province of the Anglican Church in North America, and as a sitting primate on the Gafcon Primates Council. On behalf of the Chairman of Gafcon, the Most Rev. Nicholas Okoh, the Primate of All Nigeria, the Assistant Chairman, The Most Rev. Stanley Ntagali, and the Gafcon Primates Council: Grace and peace to you in the Name of Jesus Christ our Lord.

We continue to have a crisis in the Anglican Communion as the virus of revisionist theology and practice continues to spread to various Provinces. Rather than correcting and disciplining those who have departed from the biblical faith and practice which has been handed down to us from the Apostles, some church leaders are embracing false teaching, and then going even further by promoting it around the world.

The Nairobi Communiqué from the Gafcon meeting in Nairobi, Kenya, in 2013 clearly stated that the Gafcon leadership would not ignore the pleas of the faithful who are trapped in places where false doctrine and practice occur. We promised that we would provide pastoral care and oversight for those who remain faithful to Jesus’ teaching on marriage.

At our April meeting in Lagos, Nigeria, the Gafcon Primates decided to provide a missionary bishop for Europe with the initial focus on those in Scotland and those faithful Anglicans in England outside the Church of England. Today’s decision by the Scottish Episcopal Church to change the biblical and historic definition of marriage has highlighted the need to respond to the cries and pleas of those Scots who today have been marginalized by their leaders. The attempt to redefine marriage is not one that a faithful Christian can support.

The Gafcon Primates have asked our Province, the Anglican Church in North America, to take on the task of providing a missionary bishop for Scotland. Our Province was formed at the direction of Gafcon 2008 after many of the Provinces of Gafcon had provided the same kind of oversight for clergy and congregations in North America. They have asked us to consecrate Canon Andy Lines.

Canon Andy Lines

Our College of Bishops discussed and decided to accept this responsibility. Following the Canons of our Province, the Executive Committee of the Province was not only consulted, but also voted unanimously to support this endeavor. We also appointed an oversight Committee of Bishops to provide guidance and accountability for Canon Lines as he walks through our consecration process and to support him after he is consecrated a bishop. Archbishop Robert Duncan is chair of the committee which consists of three diocesan bishops: The Rt. Rev. Bill Atwood, The Rt. Rev. Charlie Master, and The Rt. Rev. David Hicks.

Canon Andy Lines is now canonically resident in the Diocese of the South as a “priest in good standing” after having been transferred from the Province of South America as a priest in good standing.

The Consecration will take place on the morning of 30 June in Wheaton, Illinois and the service will include Primates, Archbishops, and bishops from all over the world. Although the Anglican Church in North America is the consecrating Province, this is an initiative of the wider Anglican Communion.

Lastly, as the Archbishop and Primate of the Anglican Church in North America, I consider it an honor to serve the Scots in this way. After the American revolution in the United States, the Anglican leaders in England would not consecrate bishops for the newly formed Anglican Church in the United States. It was Scotland who came to our rescue and consecrated our first bishop, Samuel Seabury. It is Providential that we in North America are now able to honor our Scottish heritage by providing a bishop for the faithful in Scotland. It is my hope that the missionary bishop will lead an effort to plant dynamic churches all over Scotland which are Jesus-centered, practicing the teaching of the Bible, and holding to the long-standing tradition of the Anglican Faith. As Samuel Seabury once said:
“Error often becomes popular and contagious, and then no one can tell how far it will spread, nor where it ends. We must in such cases, recur to first principles, and there take our stand. The Bible must be the ground of our faith."

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Friday, May 12, 2017

North Korea's Christians are suffering. We cannot forget them

From here, where there is more:
By Vernon Brewer Published May 12, 2017

I will never forget my first day in North Korea.

As we drove over the Tumen River in 2007, our guide told us how North Koreans come to the riverbank and wait until evening to attempt the risky swim to mainland China. The border guards have orders to shoot on sight, and anyone attempting to cross illegally is subject to summary execution. Our guide then added, almost as an afterthought, “The Tumen has probably witnessed more deaths than any other river in the world.”

Once inside the country, I was suddenly struck by the eerie quietness that pervades the towns and cities we visited.

The streets were empty, absent of the usual traffic and busy city life, and the few people who found themselves outside seemed to meander aimlessly.
Today, I know brave Christians who smuggle Bibles disguised as phone books into the country. They risk their lives so others may have the opportunity to read the forbidden words of Jesus in their own language.
Convoys of ox carts replaced cars and public buses, and the buildings, with their water-stained stucco walls, looked hollow and gray. Electricity, too, was often cut off, so that at night entire towns were absorbed into darkness.

I was shocked to see students typing on keyboards while staring at blank computer screens at one government school. They were pretending to do their classwork while the power was out.

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea — a communist state of 25 million souls — is considered the most secretive nation on earth. Driven by the Kim family into isolation and a cultic reverence to the royal family, this small nation now threatens to destabilize the world with nuclear warfare.

Yet, while rumors fly about secret islands used to stage missile launches, and stories emerge of U.S. citizens being held in hard labor camps, a whole narrative of persecution against Christians goes largely unreported in the media.

For 16 consecutive years, Open Doors has ranked North Korea “the most oppressive place in the world for Christians.” Though exact numbers are hard to confirm — estimates range between 30,000 to 70,000 — tens of thousands of Christians are believed to be held in “kwanliso,” or political labor camps.

Often sick and malnourished, these captives are subject to extreme violence and crude torture, suffering beatings with electric rods and metal poles, and even being used as test subjects for medical experiments, as reported in Christian Solidarity Worldwide’s 2016 report on North Korea.

Christians are frequently sentenced to these labor camps simply for owning a Bible, as evidenced by the gut-wrenching story I heard from inside North Korea.

“There was one homework [assignment] I wish I’d never done,” said Eun, now in her 40s.

One morning, when Eun was in third grade, her teacher told the class, “Today we’re not going to give you homework.” Naturally, all the children celebrated the news, but the teacher wasn’t finished.

“However, when you go home, look for a book,” the teacher continued. “Normally it’s black. Normally it’s hidden. Normally it’s the book your mom or dad read when you sleep. Normally it’s hidden in the closet or the drawer or somewhere that’s not reachable, but if you look hard enough you can find this book.”

“And, if you bring it, we will honor you.”

Eun ran home, arriving before her mom. She looked everywhere, through drawers, cabinets, underneath mattresses, until she finally found a small, black, leather-bound book. She hid it inside her bag and took it to school the next morning.

At school, Eun’s teacher gave her a red scarf — the sign of a good kid in communist North Korea. Eun’s mother didn’t allow her to be involved in government-sponsored extracurricular activities, so Eun had never had the opportunity to receive this honor.

With the scarf around her neck, she ran home to tell her mom what had happened — but her mom wasn’t there. In fact, Eun waited all night for her mom, but she never arrived. When Eun got to school the following day, with an empty stomach, she found out the parents of 14 other students also hadn’t come home the night before.

Many people don’t remember that in the early 20th century, Pyongyang was known as the “Jerusalem of the East,” or that Christianity played a major role in the history of the Korean peninsula.

Even after communism began to overtake North Korea, Christianity’s influence was so prevalent that Kim Il Sung’s father was a Christian and his father-in-law a Presbyterian minister.

Today, I know brave Christians who smuggle Bibles disguised as phone books into the country. They risk their lives so others may have the opportunity to read the forbidden words of Jesus in their own language.

During this time of great political intrigue surrounding North Korea, we must not forget the country’s Christians. Countless thousands of them suffer daily for their faith.

Vernon Brewer is the founder and president of World Help, a Christian humanitarian organization that exists to serve the physical and spiritual needs of impoverished communities around the world.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

United Airlines: "Putting the Hospital in Hospitality"

This video has gone viral and has appeared on every major news program. But I am posting it here anyway because this kind of corporate misbehavior must not be forgotten.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Why Do So Many Muslims Hate Dogs?

From PJMedia, where there is more:
A Muslim taxi-driver in England, one Abandi Kassim, was recently fined for refusing to take on a blind passenger’s seeing-eye dog because, as Kassim claimed: “For me, it’s about my religion.”

There have been many such cases in the U.S., the UK, and Canada of Muslims refusing to pick up fares with seeing-eye dogs. Many of the Somali taxi drivers who made up three-quarters of the 900 taxi drivers at the Minneapolis airport refused to pick up blind passengers because of their dogs. When forced to do so, some of them simply quit.

In Toronto, a guide dog’s owner was refused taxi service by a Muslim driver. In Saskatchewan, the same problem. In Montreal, in Ottawa, and all across Canada, Muslim drivers have refused service to seeing-eye dogs. In London, in Nottingham, in Reading, and in Tunbridge Wells, taxi drivers have refused service to fares with dogs.

Blind or poorly sighted people with guide dogs have been forced by Muslim bus drivers to get off -- often to calm the hysterical reaction of other Muslim passengers. Much worse, killings of dogs, chiefly by poison, in areas populated mainly by Muslims has been reported in Spain, Sweden, France, and Great Britain.

This Muslim hatred for dogs, as even many non-Muslims now know, has its origin in a celebrated hadith from the most authoritative collection, that by Bukhari:
Once Gabriel promised the Prophet (that he would visit him, but Gabriel did not come) and later on he said, " We, angels, do not enter a house which contains a picture or a dog." (Sahih Bukhari 4.54.50)
Two hadith from Sahih Muslim vividly convey Muhammad’s murderous hatred of dogs:
Abdullah (b. Umar) (Allah be pleased with them) reported: Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) ordered the killing of dogs and we would send (men) in Medina and its corners and we did not spare any dog that we did not kill, so much so that we killed the dog that accompanied the wet she-camel belonging to the people of the desert. (Sahih Muslim 3811) 
Ibn Mughaffal reported: The Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) ordered killing of the dogs, and then said: “What about them, i. e. about other dogs?” and then granted concession (to keep) the dog for hunting and the dog for (the security) of the herd, and said: "When the dog licks the utensil, wash it seven times, and rub it with earth the eighth time." (Sahih Muslim 551)
Dogs are to be killed, according to Muhammad, with the only exception made for those that are used for hunting or to guard a herd of cattle. But why? And why the mysterious coupling of two disparate items deemed haram: “pictures and dogs”?
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