Eastertide 2019: N.T. Wright: Can a Scientist Believe in the Resurrection?

Wonderful stuff. The video is over an hour but you don’t have over an hour to watch it. Do yourself a favor and watch it anyway.

And if you are the reading type rather than the viewing type, pick up Wright’s book, Surprised by Hope, and read chapter 4 because it essentially contains the contents of this lecture.

An Ancient Christian Theologian Muses on Prayer

Prayer is the offering in spirit that has done away with the sacrifices of old. “What good do I receive from the multiplicity of your sacrifices?” asks God. “I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams, and I do not want the fat of lambs and the blood of bulls and goats. Who has asked for these from your hands?” 

What God has asked for we learn from the Gospel. “The hour will come,” he says: “when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. God is a spirit,” and so he looks for worshipers who are like himself. 

We are true worshipers and true priests. We pray in spirit, and so offer in spirit the sacrifice of prayer. Prayer is an offering that belongs to God and is acceptable to him: it is the offering he has asked for, the offering he planned as his own. 

We must dedicate this offering with our whole heart, we must fatten it on faith, tend it by truth, keep it unblemished through innocence and clean through chastity, and crown it with love. We must escort it to the altar of God in a procession of good works to the sound of psalms and hymns. Then it will gain for us all that we ask of God. 

Since God asks for prayer offered in spirit and in truth, how can he deny anything to this kind of prayer? How great is the evidence of its power, as we read and hear and believe. 

Of old, prayer was able to rescue from fire and beasts and hunger, even before it received its perfection from Christ. How much greater then is the power of Christian prayer. No longer does prayer bring an angel of comfort to the heart of a fiery furnace, or close up the mouths of lions, or transport to the hungry food from the fields. No longer does it remove all sense of pain by the grace it wins for others. But it gives the armor of patience to those who suffer, who feel pain, who are distressed. It strengthens the power of grace, so that faith may know what it is gaining from the Lord, and understand what it is suffering for the name of God.

In the past prayer was able to bring down punishment, rout armies, withhold the blessing of rain. Now, however, the prayer of the just turns aside the whole anger of God, keeps vigil for its enemies, pleads for persecutors. Is it any wonder that it can call down water from heaven when it could obtain fire from heaven as well? Prayer is the one thing that can conquer God. But Christ has willed that it should work no evil, and has given it all power over good.

Its only art is to call back the souls of the dead from the very journey into death, to give strength to the weak, to heal the sick, to exorcise the possessed, to open prison cells to free the innocent from their chains. Prayer cleanses from sin, drives away temptations, stamps out persecutions, comforts the faint-hearted, gives new strength to the courageous, brings travelers safely home, calms the waves, confounds robbers, feeds the poor, overrules the rich, lifts up the fallen, supports those who are falling, sustains those who stand firm.

All the angels pray. Every creature prays. Cattle and wild beasts pray and bend the knee. As they come from their barns and caves they look up to heaven and call out, lifting up their spirit in their own fashion. The birds too rise and lift themselves up to heaven: they open out their wings, instead of hands, in the form of a cross, and give voice to what seems to be a prayer.

What more needs be said on the duty of prayer? Even the Lord himself prayed. To him be honor and power for ever and ever. 

—Tertullian (d. ca. 225 AD), On Prayer, 28-29

Eastertide 2018: N.T. Wright: Can a Scientist Believe in the Resurrection?

Wonderful stuff. The video is over an hour but you don’t have over an hour to watch it. Do yourself a favor and watch it anyway.

And if you are the reading type rather than the viewing type, pick up Wright’s book, Surprised by Hope, and read chapter 4 because it essentially contains the contents of this lecture.

Eastertide 2017: N.T. Wright: Can a Scientist Believe in the Resurrection?

Wonderful stuff. The video is over an hour but you don’t have over an hour to watch it. Do yourself a favor and watch it anyway.

And if you are the reading type rather than the viewing type, pick up Wright’s book, Surprised by Hope, and read chapter 4 because it essentially contains the contents of this lecture.

Justice Antonin Scalia on the Importance of Christian Funerals

Wow. Just wow. He got it. Couldn’t agree more. May he rest in peace and rise in glory.

From here.

Supreme Court of the United States
Washington, D. C. 20543

CHAMBERS OF
JUSTICE ANTONIN SCALIA

September 1, 1998

Dr. James C. Goodloe
Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church
1627 Monument Avenue
Richmond, Virginia 23220-2925

Dear Dr. Goodloe:

I looked for you unsuccessfully at the luncheon following the funeral yesterday. I wanted to tell you how reverent and inspiring I found the service that you conducted.

In my aging years, I have attended so many funerals of prominent people that I consider myself a connoisseur of the genre. When the deceased and his family are nonbelievers, of course, there is not much to be said except praise for the departed who is no more. But even in Christian services conducted for deceased Christians , I am surprised at how often eulogy is the centerpiece of the service, rather than (as it was in your church) the Resurrection of Christ, and the eternal life which follows from that. I am told that, in Roman Catholic canon law, encomiums at funeral Masses are not permitted—though if that is the rule, I have never seen it observed except in the breach. I have always thought there is much to be said for such a prohibition, not only because it spares from embarrassment or dissembling those of us about whom little good can truthfully be said, but also because, even when the deceased was an admirable person—indeed, especially when the deceased was an admirable person—praise for his virtues can cause us to forget that we are praying for, and giving thanks for, God’s inexplicable mercy to a sinner. (My goodness, that seems more like a Presbyterian thought than a Catholic one!)

Perhaps the clergymen who conduct relatively secular services are moved by a desire not to offend the nonbelievers in attendance—whose numbers tend to increase in proportion to the prominence of the deceased. What a great mistake. Weddings and funerals (but especially funerals) are the principal occasions left in modern America when you can preach the Good News not just to the faithful, but to those who have never really heard it.

Many thanks, Dr. Goodloe, for a service that did honor to Lewis and homage to God. It was a privilege to sit with your congregation. Best regards.

Sincerely,

Antonin Scalia

CT: When Jesus Got the Bible Wrong

Very nice. See what you think.

All of us are tempted on occasion to approach biblical tensions—texts that seem to contradict each other—in flippant or offhand ways. At one end of the spectrum are skeptics who reduce tensions to textual incoherence and human invention. On the other are those with more evangelical commitments, who desperately trawl books and websites to harmonize mismatching texts. Once they find one, they sigh and move on as if the tension has nothing to teach us. The “problem” has been “resolved.”

But if we want to take Scripture seriously, we must ask why tensions exist in the first place. Why did the Holy Spirit—who inspired Scripture—cause these discrepant texts to be written? What do they reveal? And what might we lose if we “resolve” the problem? We are, after all, listening for the voice of God, not solving a puzzle.

Read it all.

CT: We Were Hoping

Food for thought.

Things happen in our lives that make us want to “pack in” on everything, as the English say. We work and plan and look forward to something and it all comes to nothing and we are tempted to say “What’s the use?” But perhaps we should take a careful look at some of our dashed hopes and try to remember what actually happened later. This isn’t always possible, for our memories are often short. But for years I have kept a sort of journal in which I put down things that seem worth remembering, and it has frequently amazed and cheered me to see the pattern of things past. Some of my hopes failed, and then there have been occasions when something far beyond my hopes took place. “To those who love God,” wrote Paul, “everything that happens fits into a pattern for good” (J. B. Phillips’s translation of Romans 8:28).

Sometimes the worst has to happen in order for the best to happen. We hold a high hope, we lose it, and to our utter surprise something infinitely better than we had hoped is given to us.

Read it all.

Dr. Ben Witherington: Suspicious Minds

We live in an era when people are prone to suspicion, and susceptible to believing conspiracy theories, even in extreme forms. What often happens is there are things that people would like to be true about people or institutions or beliefs they don’t much care for, and when a conspiracy theory comes up that smears the person or belief or institution in question, they are all too ready to believe it. Sometimes this form of cynicism is confused with critical thinking. But genuine critical thinking start with an open mind and examines evidence. It does not start with a suspicion and then looks for one’s suspicions to be confirmed, selecting evidence that supports the preconceived notions. When the blinding searchlight of suspicion is turned on the subject of religion, including Christianity, all sorts of evidence is left in the dark in order to focus on this or that fact which one wishes to highlight. This does not constitute good critical thinking, much less objective analysis. It is in fact a sort of negative apologetics, or as Paul Simon once said “still a man sees what he wants to see and disregards the rest”. While that is a cynical view of humankind, it is sadly too often true in a cynical age. Suspicion is a corrosive acid, and it is the opposite of trust much less faith. The saddest part is it destroys the soul of the person who is pouring the acid on this or that object that one used to care about— a loved one, a cherished belief, and so on.

Read it all.

Ana Marie Cox: Why I’m Coming Out as a Christian

Lot’s of good stuff here to munch on.

1425302314481.cachedMy hesitancy to flaunt my faith has nothing to do with fear of judgment by non-believers. My mother was an angry, agnostic ex-Baptist; my father is a casual atheist. (I asked him once why he didn’t believe in God, and he replied easily, “Because He doesn’t exist.”)

I am not smart enough to argue with those that cling to disbelief. Centuries of philosophers have made better arguments than I could, and I am comfortable with just pointing in their direction if an acquaintance insists, “If there is a God, then why [insert atrocity]?” For me, belief didn’t come after I had the answer to that question. Belief came when I stopped needing the answer.

No, I’m nervous to come out as a Christian because I worry I’m not good enough of one. I’m not scared that non-believers will make me feel an outcast. I’m scared that Christians will.

Read it all.

C.S. Lewis Opines About Theology

This is worth your read, especially if you are one who considers yourself to be “spiritual” but not “religious.” Excerpted from The Joyful Christian.

Everyone has warned me not to tell you what I am going to tell you… They all say “the ordinary reader does not want Theology; give him plain practical religion.” I have rejected their advice. I do not think the ordinary reader is such a fool. Theology means “the science of God,” and I think any man who wants to think about God at all would like to have the clearest and most accurate ideas about him which are available. You are not children: why should you be treated like children?

In a way I quite understand why some people are put off by Theology. I remember once when I had been giving a talk to the R.A.F., an old, hard-bitten officer got up and said, “I’ve no use for all that stuff. But, mind you, I’m a religious man too. I know there’s a God. I’ve felt him: out alone in the desert at night: the tremendous mystery. And that’s just why I don’t believe all your neat little dogmas and formulas about him. To anyone who’s met the real thing they all seem so petty and pedantic and unreal!”

Now in a sense I quite agreed with that man. I think he had probably a real experience of God in the desert. And when he turned from that experience to the Christian creeds, I think he really was turning from something real, to something less real. In the same way, if a man has once looked at the Atlantic from the beach, and then goes and looks at a map of the Atlantic, he also will be turning from real waves to a bit of colored paper. But here comes the point. The map is admittedly only colored paper, but there are two things you have to remember about it. In the first place, it is based on what hundreds and thousands of people have found out by sailing the real Atlantic. In that way it has behind it masses of experience just as real as the one you could have from the beach; only, while yours would be a single isolated glimpse, the map fits all those different experiences together. In the second place, if you want to go anywhere, the map is absolutely necessary. As long as you are content with walks on the beach, your own glimpses are far more fun than looking at a map. But the map is going to be more use than walks on the beach if you want to get to America [from England].

Now Theology is like the map. Merely learning and thinking about the Christian doctrines, if you stop there, is less real and less exciting than the sort of thing my friend got in the desert. Doctrines are not God: they are only a kind of map. But the map is based on the experience of hundreds of people who really were in touch with God—experiences compared with which any thrills or pious feelings you or I are likely to get on our own way are very elementary and very confused. And secondly, if you want to get any further, you must use the map. You see, what happened to that man in the desert may have been real, and was certainly exciting, but nothing comes of it. It leads nowhere. There is nothing to do about it. In fact, that is just why a vague religion—all about feeling God in nature, and so on—is so attractive. It is all thrills and no work; like watching the waves from the beach. But you will not get to Newfoundland by studying the Atlantic that way, and you will not get eternal life by simply feeling the presence of God in flowers or music. Neither will you get anywhere by looking at maps without going to sea. Nor will you be very safe if you go to sea without a map.

Gregory Alan Thornbury: Why It Matters That the Exodus Really Happened

53902Not only does Christian faith rest squarely on the historicity of the Moses account. So does the foundation of law and order in Western society. Our traditions of common law and jurisprudence go back to Jewish notions of covenant. Without Moses, we lose divine sanction for limits on government and the power of human authorities. What is the goal of this constitutionalism rooted in Torah? According to the Oxford Companion to the Supreme Courtit “seeks to prevent tyranny and to guarantee liberty and rights of individuals on which free society depends.” Everyone who cares about liberty, then, has purchase in the debate over Exodus. Were the teachings of Moses from Moses? Were they rooted in a transcendent source? Those are some pretty important questions.

It is also serendipitous that Mahoney’s film hit theaters on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. We as a the nation remembered the life and legacy of the leader of the civil rights movement, gunned down at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis on April 4, 1968. King repeatedly cast the struggle for civil rights against the historicity of the backdrop of the Exodus. He clearly thought of the Exodus as a historical account that paralleled the experience of African Americans in the United States. The night before his assassination, King preached what would be his last sermon. He began like this:

Something is happening in Memphis; something is happening in our world. And you know, if I were standing at the beginning of time, with the possibility of taking a kind of general and panoramic view of the whole human history up to now, and the Almighty said to me, “Martin Luther King, which age would you like to live in?” I would take my mental flight by Egypt and I would watch God’s children in their magnificent trek from the dark dungeons of Egypt through, or rather across the Red Sea, through the wilderness on toward the Promised Land.

The bondage of the Israelites and God’s deliverance of them out of Pharaoh’s grip weren’t matters of indifference to King and his band of heroes in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. The historical reality of redemption mattered deeply to them. There was real slavery and real redemption. “Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord” was not an abstraction or poetic sentiment.

Read it all.