Category: christian history

christian history

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@BartEhrman & the Line Between Scholarship & Sensationalism

On March 25th, Bart Ehrman's latest book came out, and I haven't read it. However, after reading his HuffPo article about it, I've decided I'm probably gonna read something else.

The thesis of his article – and the book, one can easily gather – is:

It is not hard to make the argument that if Jesus had never been declared God, our form of civilization would have been unalterably and indescribably different.

He proceeds to spout a contrarian stream of logic that challenges the origins of the faith. In an abbreviated counterfactual, Ehrman comes to Constantine:

If Constantine had not converted, masses of former pagans would not have accepted the faith in his wake. The empire would not have become predominantly Christian. The Christian religion would not have been made the official religion of the state. The Christian church would never have become the dominant religious, cultural, social, political, and economic force of the West. We never would have had the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, the Reformation, or Modernity as we know it. And most of us would still be pagans.

While I trust Ehrman to be a more faithful and virtuous scholar, this paragraph reminds me of the leaps Bill O'Reilly made to connect modern, conservative political thought to the teachings of Jesus in Killing Jesus. The thesis Ehrman spouts is a fairly contraversial one – and he knows it. At the very least, this book will be talked about in many academic circles. However, it could also get picked up by national press, and even television shows like The Daily Show and The Colbert Report – like some of his previous work. How exciting for him?

Essentially, Ehrman claims that the insistence upon Jesus' divinity by a small group of Jesus' friends is the only way Christianity could have grown into the world-wide force it is today.

This is thin at best, and straddles the line between scholarship and sensationalism. Irresponsibly, I might add.

My Wesleyan heritage tells me that scripture, tradition, reason and experience should work together to inform my faith. Many in the Wesleyan tradition are fighting hard against this heritage, but I still find value in it. I use this dynamic to further understand my faith. Ehrman's book appears as if it will lie well outside the realm of what I consider valuable to further understand my faith.

So, again, I'm probably gonna read something else.

Anyway, that's my two cents.

Comments welcome.

 

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Matt Barber – @jmattbarber – Gets MLK Sooooo Wrong

Yes, I'm on a “calling out false claims of persecution” kick today. Unfortunately, it's necessitated by those who are making it…well…necessary:)

Matt Barber is with Liberty Counsel. Essentially, it's like every other conservative group that thinks just because they can't do whatever they want, whenever they want and wherever they want, that they are being persecuted against.

And like an increasing number of these people, they are co-opting the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to prove their point.

I have no proof of this, but I would say Dr. King might have some words for these types of people.

The video above is just more proof that some American Christians have gone soft, and are completely willing to cheapen the real persecution Christians face around the world.

Of his thoughts on persecution of Christians, he says:

Christians have been persecuted for 2000 years by radical leftists. They used to just throw us to the lions. Now, what they do is try to force us to their way of thinking, to rehabilitate us to their way of thinking, under penalty of law.

This is, of course, ridiculous, wrong, and offensive to our brethren in Egypt and elsewhere – and throughout history – but that doesn't really matter to people like this. At least, in my experience.

There are, obviously, many other things wrong with this man's logic and heart, but I'll leave it here for now.

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The Pope Okay With The Gays?

A papal quote, made during a press conference on the way to Rome from Brazil

 

The Pope has made an early habit of saying pithy things that instantly get everyone's attention.

Today, he said, “If someone is gay, who searches for the Lord and has goodwill, who am I to judge?”

In no way is he changing church teaching on the practice of Homosexuality, but he is bringing the church in line with the stated position of the United Methodist Church – which is that the church is to be in ministry with and to the LBGT community.

I can't be sure which came first, but the UMC has favored this stance for a while – and I'm just now learning that this is a catholic teaching, as well. So, I'm gonna give the nod to the UMC.

Call me a “homer.”

Anyway, thought this could use a once over on the blog.

 

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Joel is Right, but Needs Further Clarification

The Cross, the Church and the Flag

My friend, Joel, posted an interesting theory about the decline of the mainline church and the anti-intellectual streak within evangelical mainline enclaves.

How much better would we be if we had taught questioning our faith instead of absolute intellectual surrender when the New Atheists and Ken Ham arrived?

Essentially, he suggests that this “intellectual surrender” has forced the church to surrender credibility in order to maintain uniformity of thought. When a person with a question is told to “just believe” or that their question represents a lack of faith, why wouldn't that questioner find somewhere else to be? This is my paraphrase, but I think this is what he's saying.

I believe his theory to be correct, but insufficient.

We in the church must, first, disabuse (this word not used accidentally) ourselves of the notion that commercial success and the American Dream are synonymous with faithful Christianity.

They're so not.

They may even be the antithesis.

However, those who foster an unquestioning faith tend to experience the greater numeric church success.

Unless these ideas are separated by as much ground as we can get between them, the numeric success experienced by anti-intellectual evangelicalism will motivate the defense of the status quo – and his theory will wither on the vine.

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Persecution Schtick Makes Christians Look Like Dopes – @TheIRD

A screen-grab from the 'Fortnight for Freedom' website

A screen-grab from the ‘Fortnight for Freedom’ website

 

If it weren’t for @TheIRD, I would have no idea what the above event is.  I’m talking about Fortnight for Freedom – an effort by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops to bring attention to what they feel is a war on religious liberty.

There is, of course, no war.

At all.

It.

Doesn’t.

Exist.

That hasn’t stopped the USCCB from creating this event from whole cloth.  What is it?  It’s a two week event that begins today, and ends on July 4th – which isn’t heavy-handed in the least.

Independence Day.  Get it?

What does @TheIRD have to do with it?  Nothing.  They just featured a blog post from one of their interns about it.  The thing is, @TheIRD uses any excuse to add another layer to the myth – yes, myth – that religious liberty in this country is under attack.

It has become no more than a schtick to them – or any of their ilk.  The phony cries of a “war on religious liberty” are more often fundraising pleas, than actual concern for actual instances of incursions on those who seek religious liberty.

Whenever some semi-prominent religious person is shouted down by someone with a differing opinion – or some small town nativity scene is forced to move from city hall to the church grounds – certain Christians hit the airwaves to cry foul.

It also doesn’t help that pompous media figures posing as journalists bring the offended parties on their FOX News shows and ask questions to get answers that aren’t actual journalism – but shilling to a particular population subset.

Why does this persecution schtick make us look like dopes?

This story from Patheos recounts 6 recent stories of actual persecution against Christians in portions of the world where Christians face actual opposition.

American Christians are so spoiled and weak.  Is it any wonder that the church continues it’s decline, considering that a mere disagreement with a Christian is construed to be an attack on religious liberty?

It seems silly to have to explain this, but your First Amendment rights mean you have the right to say what you want.  It also means that others have the right to say what they want.  Free speech rights do not protect you from people saying they disagree with you.

When we don’t act like we understand that, we look like dopes.

Now, the Fortnight for Freedom has more to do with the USCCB’s snit with HHS over reproductive issues. It’s still not a war on religious liberty.  It’s figuring out that your religious rights stop at someone else’s reproductive system.

So, I mean, come on.  Let’s act like adults who understand that we don’t always get our way, and not petulant children who throw fits when we don’t.

*dismounts soapbox*

SERMON from 4-7-13: “The Duty of Constant Communion”

Luke 22.19 (CEB) After taking the bread and giving thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” The Duty of Constant Communion What is a sacrament? That wasn’t a rhetorical question. Can anybody tell me what a sacrament

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SERMON from Easter Sunday 2013: Last Words From The Road to Emmaus

Luke 24.13-23 (CEB) On that same day, two disciples were traveling to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking to each other about everything that had happened. While they were discussing these things, Jesus himself arrived and joined them on their journey. They were prevented from recognizing him. He said

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Relic Makes Obligatory Appearance Just Shy Of #ResurrectionSunday

A few years ago, news broke that archeologists had found the childhood home of Jesus Christ. More specifically, they found a house that is probably representative of the type of house in which Jesus probably spent most of his formative years.

The story broke just before Christmas. The link I provided is from a different story than I read back in 2009.

The most important part of this story was a quote about the significance of the find. Essentially, the interviewee decided that the find might go far to prove the existence of Jesus – and increase the faith of the world.

Since, I have noticed that before the major Christian holidays of Easter & Christmas, media outlets find it goes far for them to feature a story about Jesus and his life – and it's better if it is something you can touch or see.

Enter this story from The Huffington Post.

In 1988, carbon-14 dating placed the age of the famous – or infamous – relic, The Shroud of Turin somewhere in the Middle Ages. Hence, the major implication from that news was that the shroud was believed to be a fake.

The Shroud of Turin is a relic believed to be the burial cloth used when Jesus was laid in the tomb. It's claim to fame is that it bears an image of a person. It is believed that this image is Jesus, having been emblazoned upon the cloth when Christ was resurrected.

This Huffington Post story claims that new data suggests the shroud is more accurately dated to around the time of Jesus' life – and, therefore, more likely to be real.

No mention of the desires of those involved for this discovery to increase the faith of Christians or the relevance of Christianity.

That's all the same to me. I don't need scientific verification of the validity of some old relic to increase or undergird my faith.

That's why it's called “faith.”

 

Communion Should Be Observed Every Week: A Young Seminarian’s Thoughts

In case this seems a redundant theme for me to cover, you are right. I preached a sermon series on John Wesley last fall, and here's the transcript. I've felt convicted (a side-effect from my Church of God days) about the issue of communion ever since this sermon. According to Wesley, “…it is the duty

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Election of Francis I Means Rome Wants Reform – But What Kind?

  Early indications are that Pope Francis I is someone who appeals to a wide audience.  That’s not to say he’s a moderate, just that he can appeal to that broad middle ground. The National Catholic Reporter put together biographies of the candidates for Pope – in the days running up to the conclave.  The

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