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On the Virgin Birth

nativityThere is a Religion News Service article by Kimberly Winston which is circulating around the Internet with the provocative title Can you question the Virgin Birth and still be a Christian?” I put it in my Twitter feed so that I could comment on it later, if I had some time.

Responding to it gives me a chance to say a little more along the lines of what I was saying (or implying) in my comments on Luke 1:26-38.

(1.) This article’s title assumes something that is not true: that Christians cannot question received teachings. The writer (or the editor) is making the assumption that questioning is incompatible with Christianity. In fact, Christians have been questioning and exploring and refining their beliefs since the very beginning of the Christian movement. Christians (Protestants especially) are encouraged to check out what they hear from their spiritual leaders against the original sources of the faith in Scripture. And though there are a few lonely voices saying Christians should not read the scriptures — most are strongly encouraged to do so. There are contemporary translations, Bible study helps, Bible reading plans, etc. to help them to do so. The apostle Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 5:21 “prove all things; hold fast that which is good.” (ASV.) (more…)

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Rediscovering Hope – Psalm 25

Hebrew_bible_4I want to make some additional introductory remarks about Psalm 25.

I said last time that Psalm 25 is a psalm for the Waiting Time. I haven’t always seen it that way. I first became aware of the prominence of this “waiting” theme  in this psalm through Peter Craigie’s commentary. But, even without Craigie’s conjectural reading, the theme is of “waiting” is still found in the repeated use of the Hebrew term קָוָה (qāwāh, v. to hope in; to hope for, wait for, look for) in verses 3 and 21. I’ve indicated the appearance of the word by text color below:

גַּם כָּל־קוֶֹיךָ לֹא יֵבֹשׁוּ יֵבֹשׁוּ הַבּוֹגְדִים רֵיקָם
“Do not let those who wait for you be put to shame; let them be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous.”

תֹּם־וָיֹשֶׁר יִצְּרוּנִי כִּי קִוִּיתִיךָ
“May integrity and uprightness preserve me, for I wait for you.”

I think it’s worthwhile to take a moment to notice the close relationship between the concepts of “waiting” and “hoping.” (more…)

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Moltmann: Trinity and Freedom

Jürgen Moltmann

Jürgen Moltmann

Some remarks on the significance of the doctrine of the Trinity, from theologian Jürgen Moltmann:

The notion of a divine monarchy in heaven and on earth, for its part, generally provides the justification for earthly domination — religious, moral, patriarchal or political domination — and makes it hierarchy, a ‘holy rule.’ The idea of the almighty ruler of the universe everywhere requires abject servitude, because it points to complete dependency in all spheres of life.

The doctrine of the Trinity which evolves out of the surmounting of monotheism for Christ’s sake, must therefore also overcome this monarchism, which legitimates dependency, helplessness and servitude. The doctrine of the Trinity must be developed as the true theological doctrine of freedom. Religiously motivated political monotheism has always been used in order to legitimate domination, from the emperor cults of the ancient world, Byzantium and the absolute ideologies of the seventeenth century, down to the dictatorships of the twentieth. The doctrine of the Trinity which, on the contrary, is developed as a theological doctrine of freedom must for its part point towards a community of men and women without supremacy and without subjection.

— Jürgen Moltmann (tr. Margaret Kohl), The Trinity and the Kingdom (Harper & Row. German: 1980, English: 1981 ) pp.191, 192.

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“Rapture” Theology

clouds-jesusFrom time to time, Christian End Times speculation heats up again. The latest wave of interest began with John Hagee’s pronouncements about the Blood Moons. No doubt it will be fueled further by the re-making of the Left Behind movies — now starring Nicolas Cage.

I’m old enough to remember the Larry Norman song “I Wish We’d All Been Ready” (used extensively in evangelism) and the evangelistic film churches used to show “A Thief in the Night.” Then after all that, I also remember the brief furor that was caused by a booklet that gave 88 reasons why Jesus was returning in 1988. More recently, Harold Camping predicted Jesus’ return on May 21, 2011. Over the years, many of the predictions of end-times prophecy teachers have failed — some quite spectacularly — but, this is quickly forgotten when a new round of predictions starts up again.

The doctrine of the Rapture has been a staple of American fear-evangelism for a long time. In this teaching, Jesus will return secretly to remove all true Christian believers from the world — then a time of horrible Tribulation will ensue. And, it is still commonly taught by certain well-known “prophetic” teachers.

Evangelical and conservative Christians pride themselves on their devotion to the Bible. Yet, there are certain common features of conservative Christian teaching about the return of Christ which have little or no backing from the Scriptures. Specifically, the teaching that Christ will come silently and secretly to take believers out of the world, seven years before he returns in glory, is a teaching the lacks Biblical support. (more…)

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