Saturday, April 28, 2007

Columbia Missourian - Faith: Faithfully filling the shelves

Columbia Missourian - Faith: Faithfully filling the shelves:
"In the book of Matthew, on the day of judgment, the king will separate the people one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. Those on his right, who fed the hungry, clothed the needy and cared for the sick, will be given eternal life.

“I tell you the truth,” the king says in Matthew 25:40 in the New International Version translation, “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”

The parable of the sheep and the goats lies traditionally at the heart of Christian social outreach. For Jews, the phrase Tikkun Olam, “repair the world,” is a call for social justice. Zakat, one of the five fundamental pillars of Islam, obliges Muslims to contribute materially to the fair distribution of wealth in society."
It's been an interesting few days here in Columbia, Missouri -- both the student newspaper and the Columbia Missourian (reported largely by students and published by the UM Journalism School) have printed stories on the role religion plays in life. Today's story, a portion of which is quoted above, speaks of the significant part faith-based communities play in meeting the increasing needs of vulnerable members of our society.

Friday, April 27, 2007 | Students grapple with religion in college | Students grapple with religion in college:
"With more than 21,000 undergraduate students, MU has more than 21,000 different religious backgrounds. Combining unique individuals from all over the world, each with their own dreams and values, causes ideas to form and beliefs to be reevaluated according to new revelations and experiences.

College is the first time many young adults are on their own and learning to create the lifestyle that best suits them. When students leave home, it might be the first time they’re surrounded by crowds of individuals who are grasping a new sense of freedom. This freedom causes some to question what they believe, which can include their religious beliefs.

Sophomore Deanna Boggs grew up without fully understanding the meaning of religion. But thanks to a good friend, she discovered what Christianity means to her during her freshman year at MU. ..."
This fairly-written article covers the main religions which hold Abraham in common, as well as a student who chose no religion at all. Coming as it does from the student newspaper at the institution where I work, I am pleasantly surprised to note the even-handedness of this article's treatment of how students at MU deal with their religion -- or lack thereof -- when they leave their homes and move into a sometimes difficult environment.

Columbia Missourian - Radio talk show host encourages Christians to Stand to Reason

Columbia Missourian - Radio talk show host encourages Christians to Stand to Reason:
"Greg Koukl used to think he was too smart to be a Christian.

The founder and president of Stand to Reason, an organization that urges Christians to think more critically about their faith, Koukl thought Christians did not think enough for themselves. He set out to change that.

“I have learned that Christianity can compete in the marketplace of ideas, if it is properly understood and it is properly articulated,” said Koukl, who will speak at MU twice this week. “Christianity is worth thinking about.”

Koukl, who is also an author and radio talk show host, started Stand to Reason in 1993. It trains Christians — at conferences, in churches and on college campuses — to defend their beliefs in a logical and insightful way."
Hmmm. What am I doing this evening?

This sounds interesting. One can never be over-equipped to cogently express one's faith

Rostropovich, cellist who fought for artistic freedom | Entertainment | Music | Reuters

Rostropovich, cellist who fought for artistic freedom | Entertainment | Music | Reuters:
"By James Kilner

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Mstislav Rostropovich, who died on Friday aged 80, was regarded by many critics as the world's greatest cellist and also became a symbol of the fight for artistic freedom under Communist rule.

While on a European tour in 1978, he and his wife learned of the Kremlin's decision to strip them of Soviet citizenship for what the government newspaper Izvestia called unpatriotic activity.

But in January 1990, in the new climate of Glasnost (openness), Soviet authorities under Mikhail Gorbachev restored the citizenship taken from him and let him return to his homeland."
This Reuters news release also points out that Boris Yeltsin, who died Monday, April 23, 2007 was a friend of Rostropovich.

The world has lost a great artist, cellist, and humanitarian.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

'Goldilocks' faith serves lukewarm mush - Yahoo! News

'Goldilocks' faith serves lukewarm mush - Yahoo! News:
"For several generations, most Americans have embraced what could be described as the Goldilocks attitude toward religion: affirming faith choices that seemed not too soft but not too hard, not too hot but not too cool. Majorities viewed easy-going moderation and comforting compromise as the religious path that counted as 'just right.'"
-- Michael Medved

[HT to the Classical Presbyterian and Presbyweb]

Michael Medved was raised a Conservative Jew, but has since become an Orthodox Jew. He has consistently written well-thought out columns. His theological point of view is quite different from my own, but his respect for the Scriptures is as reformed as any ardent Presbyterian's.

His perspective might not be expected to yield up the quick impression I had -- that "Laodicean" (Revelation 3:14-22) would have made a as good a metaphor to describe what he has observed.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Indian, Black Gospel and Scottish Singing Form an Unusual Musical Bridge -

Indian, Black Gospel and Scottish Singing Form an Unusual Musical Bridge -
[Free registration required to read articles]
By Chuck McCutcheon
Religion News Service
Saturday, April 21, 2007; Page B09

"Jazz musician and Yale University music scholar Willie Ruff, who uncovered the links between 18th-century Scottish singing and black gospel music, has connected another group to the style: Native Americans.

A descendant of an Oklahoma tribe contacted him after learning about a 2005 Yale conference on line singing, an a cappella vocal form that originated in Scotland and is still sung in parts of the South. And this week, a second conference featured Muscogee Creek Indians singing with Baptist groups from Alabama and Kentucky.

Ruff said he was surprised to learn that all three groups know the same hymn: "Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah." They sang their versions at the conference. ..."
This is a pretty interesting article for those who enjoy the origins of American hymnody. I'm not that familiar with "line singing", but it seems to share some attributes with shape-note singing, which has made a significant contribution to the Presbyterian Hymnal (look for The Sacred Harp and The Southern Harmony in the list of hymn sources in the back of the hymnal).

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Starbucks Theology

The Way I See It:

"Heaven is totally overrated. It seems boring. Clouds, listening to people play the harp. It should be somewhere you can’t wait to go, like a luxury hotel. Maybe blue skies and soft music were enough to keep people in line in the 17th century, but Heaven has to step it up a bit. They’re basically getting by because they only have to be better than Hell."

-- Joel Stein
Columnist for the Los Angeles Times.
I took my 20 ounce Starbucks coffee on board my flight from Saint Louis to Reagan/National this morning. It's a fairly short flight, so I didn't bother with a book. I just played my tunes (Bach), sipped my coffee (fair-trade Guatemala), and waited it out.

At about the time I would have ordinarily been in church, I was sipping my coffee somewhere over Indiana. As I lowered the cup from my lips, the word "Heaven" caught my eye. I moved the thermal jacket down so I could read the rest of the quotation. When I got to my hotel in Arlington, Virginia, I logged on the internet and visited the Starbucks web site where a number of these quotations are listed (though not all, apparently; I only was able to see #188 through #236). This particular quotation was #230. To be fair, the quotations I saw on the Starbucks web site were, by-and-large, worth reading.

Starbucks may be trying to break into the music business, but I think I will get my theology from more authoritative sources.

I'm sure Joel Stein was trying to be funny, but I'm not a humorist, even if I do appreciate good humor.

This quotation seems to promote a "theology of mediocrity", i.e. do the minimum needed to to get by. It sort of reminds of the story of two campers who were surprised in their stocking feet by a grizzly bear. One starts to put on his sneakers while the other says "Don't be stupid. You can't outrun a grizzly bear!" The other answered "I don't have to outrun the grizzly. I just have to outrun YOU!"

Since I am not only not a humorist, but also not a theologian, I won't try to define heaven. And I will concede that it IS better than Hell, as Stein suggests.

I can be sure that the same Lord who made us "fearfully and wonderfully" (Psalm 139:14) did not prepare a mediocre place for us, but I expect I will have to wait and see just how much better than Hell it really is. I do not expect to be disappointed.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Book Review: Religious Literacy - What Every American Needs to Know - and Doesn't by Stephen Prothero @

Book Review: Religious Literacy - What Every American Needs to Know - and Doesn't by Stephen Prothero @
"What would be a theological argument for God’s sense of humor? I think it is threefold. First, God gave imperfect Man free will (this is Arminian and not Calvinist thought). That alone should be evidence enough. Second, God entrusted his Word to imperfect Man with free will to be written down and declared by that imperfect Man with free will to be God’s inerrant Word (for Fundamentalists) and divinely inspired (for Evangelicals). Third, when the imperfect Man with free will reaches the age of 40 years, he or she can be both nearsighted and farsighted at the same time. Ain’t that a kick in the head?"
I'm not sure what this paragraph I quoted from C. Michael Bailey's review of Prothero's book has to do with the topic of religious literacy, but after I thought about it a while, it seemed somehow appropriate -- especially since I am somewhat over 40 myself, and have had to correct for astigmatism since I was in my early 20s. (to oversimplify, I am nearsighted in the vertical and farsighted in the horizontal, not to mention having presbyopia since about age 35)

First, a disclaimer -- I have not yet read Religious Literacy - What Every American Needs To Know, but it is high on my list -- in fact, it will probably arrive while I am out of town next week.

So, if you read Bailey's comments on God's sense of humor and decided to click the link to his full review, you might see what prompted me to place my order for this book with Amazon.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The Evangelical Surprise - The New York Review of Books

The Evangelical Surprise - The New York Review of Books:
"... Traditionalist evangelicals, with their focus on individual salvation, see charity and evangelization as the way to change the lives of the poor. But centrist pastors, such as Rich Nathan and Joel Hunter, preach the need for social justice and have enlisted their huge congregations in anti-poverty programs for those of all faiths in cooperation with local governments. 'It's not about charity,' Nathan said. 'It's about getting to the root causes of poverty and correcting injustices, such as racial and gender discrimination.' His church, for example, supports 'fair-trade coffee'—an international program that seeks to ensure that living wages are paid to coffee growers around the world—and has a free legal clinic for those needing help with their immigrant status, domestic violence, or tenant-landlord disputes. ..."

This lengthy article does a pretty good job of shattering the myth that "evangelicals" are inextricably linked to the right wing. It also moves away from the conventional view that "evangelical" and "fundamentalist" are synonyms of each other.

I have to say that it is refreshing to see the word "evangelical" used in ways other than pejorative.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

PC(USA) - PDA response to Virginia Tech shootings - April 17, 2007

PC(USA) - PDA response to Virginia Tech shootings - April 17, 2007:
"Three members of the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance National Response Team (NRT), Anne Van Allen and the Reverends Robert Barnes and James Kirk, are on their way to the campus to be a presence and resource to the community. Over the years, Presbyterian Disaster Assistance has been very engaged in helping communities and student survivors that have been affected by school shootings. ..."

Here is the release from Presbyterian Disaster Assistance regarding the tragedy in Blacksburg, Virginia yesterday.

From Holocaust to Massacre

I received an email this morning from a friend. The message was in the subject line: "I knew this guy..."

The following link was in the message body:,2933,266506,00.html

Words fail me.

Presbyterian Bloggers: Presbyterian Disaster Assistance Responds to Virginia Tech shootings

Presbyterian Bloggers: Presbyterian Disaster Assistance Responds to Virginia Tech shootings:
"... Three members of the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance National Response Team (NRT) are on their way to the campus to be a presence and resource to the community. Over the years, Presbyterian Disaster Assistance has been very engaged in helping communities and student survivors that have been affected by school shootings.

NRT members have been in contact with Catherine Snyder, Presbyterian campus minister, George Goodman, of the Presbytery of the Peaks, and with Alexander Evans, Pastor of Blacksburg Presbyterian Church. Evans is also a chaplain with the fire department. ..."

Presbyterian Bloggers, an umbrella organization for such bloggers, had some news this morning that should be of interest to Presbyterians. I checked the Presbyterian News Service site, but there hasn't yet been a news release. I will keep looking and post a link when I find one.

Our prayers and compassion are needed here.

Monday, April 16, 2007

PC(USA) News: Court dismisses suit against Boy Scouts

PC(USA) News: Court dismisses suit against Boy Scouts:
"WASHINGTON — A federal appeals court has dismissed a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union that challenged the U.S. Department of Defense’s support of the Boy Scouts of America and their national jamboree.

The April 4 decision ended a dispute that began in 1999 when the ACLU filed suit claiming the “Boy Scouts’ policy requiring religious oaths” violated the separation of church and state.

The ACLU objected to the Defense Department letting the Scouts hold their national Jamboree at Fort A.P. Hill in Virginia every four years because the Scouts’ oath reads in part: “On my honor I will do my best to do my duty to God and to my country.” ... "

Knowing the ACLU, this won't be the end of it, but it is a good sign.

The Scouting religious principles do not require subscription to any particular religion. The movement does require that scouts and leaders recognize that there is a God, but the definition is inclusive enough to encompass just about anything that recognizes a higher power.

The Scout Law has twelve points, and the twelfth is "A Scout is Reverent". This is further defined (in much the same way as our Presbyterian Catechisms elaborate on the Ten Commandments) as "A Scout is reverent, he is reverent toward God. He is faithful in his religious duties and respects the convictions of others in matters of custom and religion."

In this day when there are a spate of books that ridicule those who have experienced God in a personal way -- when Muslims are at war against Jews and Christians, when Sikhs and Hindus fight, when there is internecine fighting within Jewish, Muslim and Christian groups respectively -- doesn't it seem a little odd that people want to force the Boy Scouts of America to drop their concept of a duty to God and the duties enjoined upon Scouts by the simple phrase "A Scout is Reverent"?

Friday, April 13, 2007

Good News for my Foot

It was on Friday the 13th in October 2006 that I was hospitalized for five days for a foot infection that had invaded one of the small bones of my left foot. This led to foot surgery in February to remove the affected sesamoid bone and several weeks of recuperation. For someone who enjoys walking an bicycling, this was a frustrating two months. My proposal to soak my feet by standing in the middle of my favorite trout stream did not go over well with my doctor...

So it is only appropriate that on Friday, the 13th of April, that I celebrate my first full day following my podiatrist telling me that the foot is healed.

When I left the doctor's office yesterday, I went to the orthotic clinic where I was fitted for a custom insole that will reduce the pressure on parts of my feet by supporting the whole sole evenly. Since I have already met my deductible, this will not involve additional out-of-pocket expense for me. (I figure I met my deductible in five minutes at the doctor's office.)

Anyway, thanks for your prayers and well wishes, and I look forward to easing myself back into my preferred lifestyle..

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Creators Syndicate: Johnny Hart - In Memoriam (1931-2007)

Johnny Hart - In Memoriam (1931-2007):
By Rick Newcombe, President and Founder of Creators Syndicate, Inc.

"Johnny Hart was a towering genius among cartoonists. He had a profound influence on my life ... and on the lives of all syndicated cartoonists. Johnny stands out as one of the kindest, most generous, patient and all-round decent people I have ever known. ..."
Here is a fine tribute to Johnny Hart, who recently died at the age of 76. Along with written contributions from many cartoonists and others, there are a number of cartoons marking Hart's passing. Here is one to give you a flavor of what you'll read when you head on over to the Creator's Syndicate website:

Gary Varvel, April 11, 2007
Click on the image to see more of Varvel's work

Johnny Hart was also a Presbyterian.

PC(USA) News: As the war goes on, so does the work of military Chaplains

PC(USA) News: As the war goes on, so does the work of military Chaplains:
by Marcia Z. Nelson
Religion News Service

"CHICAGO — Once you’ve seen the brutal face of evil, says the Rev. Robert Barry, you start looking for the tender face of God.

Barry is an Air National Guard chaplain who spends his summers working with injured soldiers at Landstuhl military hospital in southern Germany, where American military personnel are taken after they are wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan.

It’s also where Barry gets frequent prayer requests from patients and staff. No one at Landstuhl, he said, has ever turned down a prayer. “Nobody has said, ‘That’s not necessary,’” said Barry, who holds the rank of lieutenant colonel in the 183rd Fighter Wing of the Illinois Air National Guard. ..."

Even though Christians are divided on the war on terror, the work that chaplains do is a true ministry of compassion, and I suspect that the support among Presbyterians in their congregations closely approaches 100%.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Presbyterian Outlook: Ecclesiastical divorce

Ecclesiastical divorce:
"... You know how divorce happens. The aggrieved party looks back over recent history, shudders over the hurtful things the spouse has done, and remembers all the unrequited steps he or she took to try to bring reconciliation. The aggrieved party transitions from trying to save the marriage to building a compelling case to justify ending it.

In the process, the accused party reacts and does things that are really, really stupid, reinforcing the anger of the aggrieved. Soon each party can’t stand the sight of the other.

I’ve been participant in or immediate observer of a dozen congregational splits and denominational separations. Every one of them has followed that divorcing pattern.

We can do better.

Given the desire of some congregations to separate from the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) these days, let us consider a few possible modi operandi.

The most critical thing we can do is to believe in one another’s intentions. ..."

Good point here. A lot more can be accomplished if people assume that their fellow Christians love the Church as much as they do.

It seems that the debate has been framed by both sides as an Armageddon-like conflict with good arrayed against evil -- if not in those words, it is implied by the respective sides' rhetoric and actions. Jack Haberer points out that it doesn't have to be that way. I hope that we all can take some time to handle these disputes -- and they are not trivial -- with more of a Christian outlook and mutual forbearance.

Who knows? If we begin the process in a pastoral way, instead of going immediately to adversarial actions, we might achieve some form of reconciliation. And if it is not possible, then we can at least part with each side asking God's blessing for their counterparts on the other side.

Appomattox -- April 9, 1865

The day that would later be remembered as the end of the Civil War (to be accurate, it wasn't, as there were still several armies in the field) began with an assault by the Confederate Second Corps on Union positions. It was Palm Sunday, 1865.

While the initial charge forced the Union lines to retreat, it also put the Confederates in a position to view the Union XXIV Corps and the V Corps in battle formations. The CSA Second Corps withdrew and a member of General Robert E. Lee's staff was given a report to take back to Lee's headquarters.

There had been contacts between General Lee and General Ulysses S. Grant for a few days already, but Lee had not been ready to surrender. What he heard from his staff officer the morning of the 9th was enough to force his decision. He made contact with Grant's headquarters and a meeting was agreed to. The Confederates secured a home in the area and Lee awaited Grant.

After some reminiscing about their shared experiences in the Mexican War, Lee, who was perhaps a little impatient to conclude what must have been a humiliating visit, asked Grant to proceed to the matter at hand. Grant reiterated, in writing, generous terms:
"In accordance with the substance of my letter to you of the 8th inst., I propose to receive the surrender of the Army of N. Va. on the following terms, to wit: Rolls of all the officers and men to be made in duplicate. One copy to be given to an officer designated by me, the other to be retained by such officer or officers as you may designate. The officers to give their individual paroles not to take up arms against the Government of the United States until properly exchanged, and each company or regimental commander sign a like parole for the men of their commands. The arms, artillery and public property to be parked and stacked, and turned over to the officer appointed by me to receive them. This will not embrace the side-arms of the officers, nor their private horses or baggage. This done, each officer and man will be allowed to return to their homes, not to be disturbed by United States authority so long as they observe their paroles and the laws in force where they may reside."

-- The Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant. Old Saybrook, CT: Konecky and Konecky. Reprint of the 1885 edition in one volume.

After some discussion, during which Lee pointed out that many enlisted cavalrymen provided their own horses, Grant agreed that, in view of the needs of the planting season, they would be permitted to retain their horses as with the officers. Lee thanked Grant, saying that this would have a good effect on the soldiers.

When the surrender was concluded, cheering commenced in the Union camps. General Grant ordered an immediate stop on the grounds that this sort of humiliation was uncalled for.

The following day Brigadier General Joshua Chamberlain was selected to receive the fomal surrender of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia. Chamberlain, who was a professor at Bowdoin College before the Civil War, chose on his own authority to show military respect to the Confederate forces which were passing in review as they proceeded to the point where they would stack their arms. In Chamberlain's words:
"... Instructions had been given; and when the head of each division column comes opposite our group, our bugle sounds the signal and instantly our whole line from right to left, regiment by regiment in succession, gives the soldier's salutation, from the "order arms" to the old "carry"—the marching salute. Gordon at the head of the column, riding with heavy spirit and downcast face, catches the sound of shifting arms, looks up, and, taking the meaning, wheels superbly, making with himself and his horse one uplifted figure, with profound salutation as he drops the point of his sword to the boot toe; then facing to his own command, gives word for his successive brigades to pass us with the same position of the manual,—honor answering honor. On our part not a sound of trumpet more, nor roll of drum; not a cheer, nor word nor whisper of vain-glorying, nor motion of man standing again at the order, but an awed stillness rather, and breath-holding, as if it were the passing of the dead!..."

-- The Passing of the Armies by Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, originally published in 1915

Chamberlain knew this would be a controversial decision on his part, but his simple act of consideration may have eased the tensions of the day.

General Gordon, who began the previous day with what he quickly learned would be a futile assault on Union lines, was moved by this display of courtesy, and later mentioned Chamberlain's gesture in his memoirs.

As a result of the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia, the remaining Confederate armies surrendered, beginning with General Joseph Johnston's army in North Carolina on April 26, followed by the Trans-Mississippi Department under the command of General Edmund Kirby Smith on June 2, 1865. The last significant Confederate force, under the command of General Stand Watie, a Cherokee, took place in Oklahoma on June 23, 1865.

On Good Friday, 1965 (April 14, 1865), Abraham Lincoln attended a play at Ford's Theater and received a fatal wound from an assassin's pistol. His Second Inauguaral Address, delivered a little over a month previously, set the tone for his intentions in reconstruction:
"... Fondly do we hope — fervently do we pray — that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue, until all the wealth piled by the bond-man's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash, shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said "the judgments of the Lord, are true and righteous altogether."

With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan — to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations."

Had Lincoln lived, things might have been significantly different...

All photos are believed to be in the public domain and were obtained from Wikipedia.

While I have linked liberally with Wikipedia in this posting, I crosschecked with such works as Grant's The Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant, Chamberlain's The Passing of the Armies, McPherson's Battle Cry of Freedom, and Shelby Foote's The Civil War: a Narrative - Red River to Appomattox.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Easter 2007

1Co 15:1 Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.

1Co 15:3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance : that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8 and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.

1Co 15:9 For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. 11 Whether, then, it was I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed.

1Co 15:12 But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 15 More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.

1Co 15:20 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. 22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. 23 But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. 24 Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For he “has put everything under his feet.” Now when it says that “everything” has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. 28 When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.

-- First Corinthians 5:1-28 (NIV)

Paul gave the Corinthians a crystal clear choice here: Either there is resurrection or there isn't. And if there isn't, then nothing Paul or the Apostles have already said or will say in the future can provide the hope that we have in Jesus Christ. We remain in our sins. We have been lied to.

But, if Jesus DID rise from the dead as the witnesses reported, then the preaching of those witnesses (and Paul, whose epiphany was years after the Resurrection) is valid, and they speak with the authority of those who have been called by the Lord to preach the Gospel to everyone.

It all hinges on the Resurrection. and far too many of the original witnesses to that event died for believing and preaching the Good News, for me to blow it off as delusion or hoax. I have seen too many changed lives to casually deny the Lord's work in the world today.

Christ is Risen!

Friday, April 06, 2007

Good Friday, 2007

Ah, holy Jesus, how hast Thou offended,
That man to judge Thee hath in hate pretended?
By foes derided, by Thine own rejected,
O most afflicted.

Who was the guilty? Who brought this upon Thee?
Alas, my treason, Jesus, hath undone Thee.
’Twas I, Lord, Jesus, I it was denied Thee!
I crucified Thee.

Lo, the Good Shepherd for the sheep is offered;
The slave hath sinned, and the Son hath suffered;
For man’s atonement, while he nothing heedeth,
God intercedeth.

For me, kind Jesus, was Thy incarnation,
Thy mortal sorrow, and Thy life’s oblation;
Thy death of anguish and Thy bitter passion,
For my salvation.

Therefore, kind Jesus, since I cannot pay Thee,
I do adore Thee, and will ever pray Thee,
Think on Thy pity and Thy love unswerving,
Not my deserving.
-- Hymn by Johann Heermann (1630); Music by Johann Crü­ger (1640)

The second verse reaches out and grabs me every time I sing this hymn.

For further information on this hymn, and its history, see Ah, Holy Jesus on the CyberHymnal website. If you can read German, take a look at Herzliebster Jesu, also on the CyberHymnal site. There are fifteen verses of which five were translated to English.

The painting by Rembrandt van Rijn, The Raising of the Cross, shows the artist as one of those crucifying Jesus. The late Francis Schaeffer, in his book How Should We Then Live? points out how Rembrandt's understanding of Reformed theology led him to see himself as one of those for whom Christ paid the penalty.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

TCS Daily - Supreme Court Goes Nuclear

TCS Daily - Supreme Court Goes Nuclear:
"Who are the big winners and losers in Monday's monumental Supreme Court ruling in Massachusetts v. EPA? A sharply divided 5-4 decision found that the Environmental Protection Agency has the authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles -- most notably carbon dioxide -- despite the fact Congress has considered and rejected such proposals in the past. ..."

"...The irony is that the beneficiary of Monday's ruling won't be wind power, solar power, or any of the other renewable technologies favored by the Green establishment. Their economic and technological limitations are too severe for them ever to occupy more than a small niche in the American energy economy. Instead, one of the winners from Massachusetts v. EPA just may be something that many of the environmentalists who brought the suit have long abhorred: nuclear power. Like with renewables, nuclear power generates electricity with no pollutants or greenhouse gas emissions. But unlike renewables, nuclear is capable of generating reliable power on a massive scale, which is what our country's future energy demands will require. ..."

This is a pretty interesting article that points out the major problems in how we deal with the internal combustion engine.

If I recall my chemistry courses correctly, a single molecule of octane (C8H18) yields 8 molecules of carbon dioxide in addition to water, when fully oxidized. The alternative is not fully oxidizing the gasoline and putting up with carbon particulates and carbon monoxide.

Of course, a more desirable alternative might be better fuel efficiency, less driving, more walking, and so forth. It does no good, however, to try and adjudicate the laws of chemistry and thermodynamics to fit political needs.

It would certainly be a delicious irony if environmental ideologues had to suck it up and accept nuclear power in the interests of protecting the environment and possibly slowing global warming.

I wonder how all this will play out?

PC(USA) News: Living In an Earthquake Zone

PC(USA) News: Living In an Earthquake Zone:
"... In a nutshell, the message of Easter is that we are living in a spiritual earthquake zone today. This is so because the God we meet on Easter morning, who shook the earth and rolled the stone away, is still alive and well and shaking things up today. ..."

Moderator Joan Gray's Easter message is both timely and to the point.

Can green tea save your soul? - By Jacob Weisberg - Slate Magazine

Can green tea save your soul? - By Jacob Weisberg - Slate Magazine:
"For centuries, man has searched for the elixir of life—a distillation that could bestow vitality, happiness, and immortality. But it took American marketing specialists to discover the brew that eluded medieval alchemists, Arab mystics, and the Ming emperors. It turns out that there is indeed an essence that ensures health, spiritual harmony, and moral merit. It is called green tea. ..."

Here's an interesting and humorous article about one element of the galaxy of food fads that pervade our lives today.

My wife and I have been drinking green tea for years, and while we have been aware of some tenuous associations with health and longevity, it is not that that keeps us drinking it.

Besides which, there's always dark chocolate, if you want to really enjoy yourself while preventing oxidation of fats in your body...

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Presbyterian Outlook: Living in Hope

Presbyterian Outlook: Living in Hope
[free registration required to read the full article]

"Whether it be spouted by the Jesus Seminar scholars, the Da Vinci Code author or The Lost Tomb of Jesus producer, this is the season when magazines give undeserved attention to Jesus’ detractors. In spite of their allegedly formidable arguments, confident Christians worldwide will gather in huge numbers on Easter morning chanting, “He is risen. He is risen. He is risen indeed.”

Presbyterian Outlook: Living in Hope Such affirmations continue undeterred, because the arguments supporting the resurrection and the legacy of Christ-changed lives far overwhelm lame claims about some Passover Plot.

Then again, resurrection faith does have other detractors, or distracters. We who declare the confident hope of resurrection often exhibit attitudes that scream out hopelessness, despair, and defeat.

These voices of despair have saddened me more than once since I accepted the call to serve as your editor here at the Outlook. They broadcast their hopelessness by sending in letters to the editor. Many letters challenge the viewpoints of this editor and our writers, and that’s totally okay. But what breaks my heart is reading letters that sing, “Hi, ho, the church is dead, the wicked church, the church is dead.”

Such voices don’t say that the Church-with-a-capital-C, the universal Church of Jesus Christ, is dead. They have claimed that the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is dead, that it is irretrievably lost and hopelessly undone. They blame bureaucracy and ideology, traditionalism and liberalism, compromises and conspiracies, plus a host of other enmeshed causes. At the end, they render their final diagnosis: dead, never to be revived.

In the process, they hurl scorn and mockery at anybody who speaks a word of hope for the denomination—their hopelessness is irrefutable. ..."

Self-fulfilling prophesies are all too easy to make...

Dr. Haberer, in yesterday's editorial from the Presbyterian Outlook makes it quite clear that our hope comes not from humans but from the Resurrection of Christ, and the victory over death and freedom to live free of the bondage of sin that it provides us.

There are attacks from all directions on the Church but the ones that are most frustrating are those that occur from within.

Jack Haberer closes with a verse of The Church's One Foundation which may not be familiar to all:
Though with a scornful wonder This world sees her oppressed,
By schisms rent asunder, By heresies distressed,
Yet saints their watch are keeping; Their cry goes up; “How long?”
And soon the night of weeping Shall be the morn of song.

I would add to that the final two verses of I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day:
And in despair I bowed my head
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men.”

We live with the hope of the Resurrection; let's keep on reminding ourselves and each other of that inescapable fact.