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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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The Angel’s Announcement – Luke 1:26-38

nativityWhen we approach Christmas time we naturally have to turn to the Gospel of Luke. It is Luke that tells us the familiar Christmas story that we remember at this time of the year. The Gospel of Mark begins its story with John the Baptist. The Gospel of John talks about creation and the Word and “the Word made flesh.” The Gospel of Matthew tells us a story that centers on Joseph. It is Luke alone that tell us the nativity story upon which the church Christmas pageants and celebrations are based.

So the Revised Common Lectionary — which tries to assign only one of the Synoptic Gospels to a particular year — nonetheless has to draw from the Gospel of Luke as Christmas rolls around again. So, recommended for this coming Sunday, is the story of the angel’s announcement to Mary of the birth of the savior. (more…)

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Some Quotes from the Internet

internet-wrldBoze Herrington gives us a heart-rending account of his involvement in a prayer group (associated with the International House of Prayer) that evolved into a dangerous cult. The account centers around the death of the cult leader’s wife (Boze’s friend) Bethany. He writes: “But it is clear that when Bethany died, she was part of a community shrouded in fear and hatred, a community where those who spoke out were treated as though they didn’t exist. Their loves, desires, opinions, feelings, and whole personalities were invalidated, all in the name of God.” At The Atlantic here: The Seven Signs You’re in a Cult.

Jonathan Merritt on the public’s response to Christian leaders: “The point is that people don’t like mean people and judgmental people and power-hungry people, regardless of their religion. Most people dislike Christian jerks because they are jerks, not because they are Christian. (According to a 2013 Barna poll, about 51% of self-identified Christians are characterized by having the attitudes and actions that are “Pharisaical” as opposed to “Christlike.”)” Here: What the Pope’s popularity says about American culture. (more…)

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Not In Vain

N. T. Wright

N. T. Wright

“Therefore, my beloved, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, because you know that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” — 1 Corinthians 15:58 NRSV.

You are not oiling the wheels of a machine that’s about to roll over a cliff. You are not restoring a great painting that’s shortly going to be thrown on the fire. You are not planting roses in a garden that’s about to be dug up for a building site. You are — strange though it may seem, almost as hard to believe as the resurrection itself — accomplishing something that will become in due course part of God’s new world. Every act of love, gratitude, and kindness; every work of art or music inspired by the love of God and delight in the beauty of his creation; every minute spent teaching a severely handicapped child to read or to walk; every act of care and nurture, of comfort and support, for one’s fellow human beings and for that matter one’s fellow nonhuman creatures; and of course every prayer, all Spirit-led teaching, every deed that spreads the gospel, builds up the church, embraces and embodies holiness rather than corruption, and makes the name of Jesus honored in the world — all of this will find it’s way, through the resurrecting power of God, into the new creation that God will one day make. That is the logic of the mission of God. God’s recreation of his wonderful world, which began with the resurrection of Jesus and continues mysteriously as God’s people live in the risen Christ and in the power of his Spirit, means that what we do in Christ and by the Spirit in the present is not wasted. It will last all the way into God’s new world. In fact, it will be enhanced there.

— N. T. Wright, Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church (2008). pp.208, 209.

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How I Still Think Like a Methodist

hgbk-coverIn the early part of his 2012 book How God Became King: The Forgotten Story of the Gospels, N. T. Wright remarks on how the Church has not always allowed itself to hear the full witness of the Gospels to Christ. I won’t attempt to reproduce the argument here: read the book. (Or, maybe: read this review.)

Wright begins by discussing some ways that the Church’s teachings unintentionally got off track. And, as he is discussing how these various theologians of the past attempted to defend orthodoxy in a way that misconstrued some of the Bible’s teachings, he says on page 37 that “the eighteenth century saw great movements of revival, particularly through the Methodist movement led by John and Charles Wesley and George Whitefield.” and, he goes on to say: (more…)

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Derek Ouellette: Did Early Christians Serve in the Military?

Derek Ouellette

Derek Ouellette

This is a guest post by Derek Ouellette, who blogs at Covenant of Love. If you are not currently following him, you should be.

Derek works in marketing and advertising for Cameron’s Bookstore in Windsor, Ontario. He says: “I’ve worked in the Christian book industry for more than seven years and in spite of the struggles the retail end of the industry has faced recently, I love my job.” He also is a Classics Major at the University of Windsor. His interests include guitar, theology and history.

Derek does some great thinking and writing about the Christian faith and theology. This is a good example. (more…)

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N. T. Wright on “Literal” Interpretation

This is a follow-up to a recent post about taking the Bible literally — whatever that means!

Alastair Roberts, who left an excellent piece of rebuttal in the comments (seeking to defend Origen and his methods of interpretation), also, by way of Goggle+, reminded me of this video of N. T. Wright discussing the use of the word “literal” in relation to our reading and interpretation of the Bible.

 

 

 

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William Birch: The Modern Reductionist Gospel of Evangelicalism

Billy_Birch

William Birch

Guest blog by William Birch, who used to blog at Classical Arminian, etc. now has a blog here: The Episcocrat. He says about himself: “…I came to faith in Christ in 1995, thereafter developing interests in theology and Church history. I hold two degrees: one in English and another in Biblical Studies. (I plan to begin a Masters degree program in the near future, degree focus as yet unknown.)”

Billy used to regularly blog on Arminius and Arminian theology. He did this beginning in 2007. He doesn’t do that anymore. He has moved on to other topics. (more…)

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