Daily Archives: January 4, 2014

Baptist Minister Ken Harmon–The biblical Christmas story: It’s fact

First of all, there are many competent scholars who would not place the gospels of Matthew and Luke as late after Jesus’ earthly ministry as Rev. Jones does. Matthew was an eye-witness to what he wrote about, and Luke was a methodical historian who, as a contemporary of Paul, researched eye-witness accounts of Jesus’ life and ministry. Again, many scholars have clear reasons for accepting the validity of the gospel accounts.

Second, the virgin birth has nothing to do with normal conception. It would be more proper to consider it creation rather than conception. Another gospel writer, John, reminds us that Jesus Christ was pre-existent, was the Word who was God and was co-creator with God.

John says the Word was made flesh and lived among us. Luke’s point in including the virgin birth seems to be that this “God made flesh” grew and developed as any other human being.

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Posted in Uncategorized

Unitarian Minister Neal Jones–The Christmas story: neither fact nor fiction

Each Christmas, I enjoy hearing the story of Jesus’ birth, but it has been many, many years since I believed in his virgin birth. Neither can I believe that Jesus walked on water, turned water into wine or came back to life after he died. I outgrew these beliefs in the same way I outgrew my belief in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy. As the Apostle Paul put it, “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, thought like a child, and reasoned like a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”

I no longer believe in supernatural explanations because I now know the natural causations of things like birth. In biology classes, I learned that people are not born of virgins ”” they are born from the union of eggs and sperms. In history classes, I learned that virgin birth myths were common in the ancient world. Great men (they were always men) were born from the union of a mortal woman and a male god. For example, Alexander the Great was alleged to be the son of Zeus and a virgin, while the Greek philosopher Plato, the Greek mathematician Pythagoras and the Roman emperor Augustus were supposed sons of Apollo.

Even the Bible does not believe wholeheartedly in the myth of a virgin birth. Jesus himself never said he was born of a virgin and never instructed his disciples to pass along such a teaching.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Christmas, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Religion & Culture

(CT) Dealing with Alcoholism: My Interview with an Anonymous Pastor and Recovering Alcoholic

How could you tell (and when did you realize) you had a problem?

Alcohol became more of a need than a want. As success and stress increased, the need for it to “relax” become more of a habit than an occasional thing. I started to hide it from family. I made promises to never drink during “work time,” which of course, began to shrink.

My family and a couple of my staff expressed concern in a loving way, but I said I could “handle it” (major flag!).

What is unique about being an alcoholic evangelical pastor?

Never thought it would happen to me…

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Alcohol/Drinking, Alcoholism, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Theology

Tim Keller–Why Christmas Matters

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Religion News & Commentary, Anthropology, Christmas, Christology, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Evangelicals, Other Churches, Theology

(9 Marks Blog) Miguel Núñez–Why Has the Prosperity Gospel Prospered?

Why has the prosperity gospel prospered? Anyone involved in ministry today is aware of how widespread this new teaching is. It has reached almost every nation. I was surprised to find it even in Cuba on one of my many trips to that Caribbean island.

It would be easy to say that the spread of the prosperity gospel is simply the result of a lack of biblical knowledge, and certainly no one can deny that. The movement misinterprets Scripture, selectively uses biblical texts at the expense of others, missing the balanced view of the whole counsel of God on health and wealth. And in an era when many teachers of the Word are not preaching expositionally, all kinds of heresies would arise.

But two questions remain: why this heresy? And why now? I would suggest that there are deep evil roots in people’s hearts and strong secular ideas in the heart of our society””and even in the church””that serve as fertilizers for this harmful seed.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Anthropology, Consumer/consumer spending, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Theology

Pope Francis Repeats that Same-Sex 'Marriage' is an "Anthropological Regression"

In an interview with the Italian bishops’ newspaper Avvenire published today, Auxiliary Bishop of Malta Charles J. Scicluna said that when he met Pope Francis on Dec. 12, he expressed his concern to the Pope about the proposed law. “The Pope showed his sadness at this development, especially on the question of adoption.”

He added: “I told him that the promoters [of the bill] quote his words: ”˜If a person is gay and seek the Lord and have good will, who am I to judge?’ but they don’t quote his words from 2010 when he was still Cardinal Archbishop of Buenos Aires. The Pope repeated the phrase of his letter of 2010: ”˜It’s an anthropological regression.’”

In 2010, then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio called same-sex ‘marriage’ an “anti-value and an anthropological regression.” In a conversation with Rabbi Abraham Skorka published in the book “On Heaven and Earth”, he said same-sex ‘marriage’ is a weakening of the institution of marriage, an institution that has existed for thousands of years and is “forged according to nature and anthropology.”

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anthropology, Globalization, Marriage & Family, Media, Other Churches, Pope Francis, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Sexuality, Theology

(NY Times Beliefs) Evangelicals Find Themselves in the Midst of a Calvinist Revival

Evangelicalism is in the midst of a Calvinist revival. Increasing numbers of preachers and professors teach the views of the 16th-century French reformer. Mark Driscoll, John Piper and Tim Keller ”” megachurch preachers and important evangelical authors ”” are all Calvinist. Attendance at Calvin-influenced worship conferences and churches is up, particularly among worshipers in their 20s and 30s.

In the Southern Baptist Convention, the country’s largest Protestant denomination, the rise of Calvinism has provoked discord. In a 2012 poll of 1,066 Southern Baptist pastors conducted by LifeWay Research, a nonprofit group associated with the Southern Baptist Convention, 30 percent considered their churches Calvinist ”” while twice as many were concerned “about the impact of Calvinism.”

Calvinism is a theological orientation, not a denomination or organization. The Puritans were Calvinist. Presbyterians descend from Scottish Calvinists. Many early Baptists were Calvinist. But in the 19th century, Protestantism moved toward the non-Calvinist belief that humans must consent to their own salvation ”” an optimistic, quintessentially American belief. In the United States today, one large denomination, the Presbyterian Church in America, is unapologetically Calvinist.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Religion News & Commentary, Church History, Evangelicals, Other Churches, Religion & Culture

You can still register for the Mere Anglicanism Event in Charleston in 3 weeks

The topic is Science, Faith and Apologetics: An Answer for the Hope That Is Within Us. Please check out all the information here and there.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * South Carolina, Apologetics, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Theology

Alan Jacobs–‘Now Our Endless Journey Stops’: W.H. Auden and the Time of the Incarnation

The difference between Simeon and Herod lies not in understanding but in response: where Simeon replies to the news by joyously affirming, “we are bold to say that we have seen our salvation,” Herod replies with blunt opposition: “I refuse to be taken in.” With a sigh of deep regret, he orders the slaughter of the Israelite children.

Simeon the theologian may have found it difficult to accept the idea of God Incarnate, but for Herod it is impossible, because acceptance would require him to relinquish his position as the chief local instrument, in Judaea, of Romanitas and the Caesarist project. And this he lacks the strength of will to do.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, Anthropology, Books, Christmas, Christology, Church History, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Poetry & Literature, Theology

A Prayer to Begin the Day

Merciful and most loving God, by whose will and bountiful gift thine eternal Son humbled himself that he might exalt mankind, and became flesh that he might renew in us the divine image: Perfect us in thy likeness, and bring us at last to rejoice in beholding thy beauty, and, with all thy saints, to glorify thy grace; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Christmas, Church Year / Liturgical Seasons, Spirituality/Prayer

From the Morning Bible Readings

Let me hear what God the Lord will speak,
for he will speak peace to his people,
to his saints, to those who turn to him in their hearts.
Surely his salvation is at hand for those who fear him,
that glory may dwell in our land.

Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet;
righteousness and peace will kiss each other.
Faithfulness will spring up from the ground,
and righteousness will look down from the sky.
Yea, the Lord will give what is good,
and our land will yield its increase.
Righteousness will go before him,
and make his footsteps a way.

–Psalm 85:8-13

Posted in Uncategorized

(Living Church) Oliver O’Donovan–Thirty-Nine Articles Revived

Nearly thirty years ago when I ventured to publish a small book discussing the Thirty-Nine Articles, having found the existing literature, as I was so brash as to say, “disagreeable,” it was considered a rather self-destructive thing to do. Slowly the Articles had become decentred from the life of the Church of England, which of all the Anglican churches was most likely to have a stake in them, and even clerical subscription could be done on terms that hardly required the subscriber to read them. It seemed to have become established that this document attracted no more than an occasional feisty pamphlet from the disenchanted fringes, beyond which it was left to the historians to get excited about.

Now we see appearing, more or less simultaneously, two treatments of this key 16th-century doctrinal document by former theological educators who have held responsibility for articulating the faith within their churches. They are very different from each other in many respects, but both pretty long. One is of U.S. provenance; the author, the Rt. Rev. John H. Rodgers, is a retired bishop of the Anglican Mission in North America. The other is English and by Martin Davie, a layman who has served for the past decade as theological secretary to the Church of England’s Council for Christian Unity and Faith and Order Commission.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Anglican Provinces, Church History, Church of England (CoE), Theology

Peter Sprigg–The Court changed the very definition of the word marriage

With so many errors of law, logic, and procedure, what could Marshall’s Goodridge opinion have gotten right? Only one thing””she acknowledged that what the Court had done was nothing less than change the very definition of the word marriage.

Marshall wrote, “Certainly our decision today marks a significant change in the definition of marriage as it has been inherited from the common law, and understood by many societies for centuries.”

Reviewing the history of marriage law in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, she acknowledged that “the Legislature . . . incorporated the common-law definition of marriage into the first marriage laws nearly three centuries ago,” and declared clearly, “We have recognized the long-standing statutory understanding, derived from the common law, that ”˜marriage’ means the lawful union of a woman and a man.”

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family