Tuesday, December 26, 2006


Still enjoying the Immanuel!? Feast your eyes on this portrait by Caravaggio (1609) and enjoy a modern English version of the ancient Christian Gloria (hum along with me), translated from the Latin that was adapted from the original Greek:

Glory to God in the highest,
And peace to His people on earth.

Lord God, heavenly King,
Almighty God and Father,
We worship you, we give you thanks,
We praise you for your glory.

Lord Jesus Christ, only Son of the Father,
Lord God, Lamb of God,
You take away the sin of the world,
Have mercy on us;
You are seated at the right hand of the Father,
Receive our prayer.

For You alone are the Holy One,
You alone are the Lord,
You alone are the Most High,
Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit
In the Glory of God the Father. Amen.

enjoy, ron

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Christmas Grace: Salvation!

Grace is impossible for sinners to grasp. And as soon as we gather that it is impossible, we turn the “grasping of it” into a contest. Once we get it, we begin to work it! And the winner of the best “grace project” award gets a stint at “the head of the class”. Yet in the end, grace means that some with the wrong answers will be saved and some with the right answers won’t be. The salvation that came to the world was all of grace!

Friday, December 22, 2006

God’s Plan: Immanuel!

I’m posting a small excerpt from my upcoming Sunday sermon (Christmas Eve, 12/24/06)

During the Christmas season we celebrate the fulfillment of God's intimate plan to be visibly present among us (Matthew 1.21-23). God’s Immanuel! The promise to become evident to His people given some 730 years before its time (Isaiah 7.14). Today we celebrate the birth of the "Immanuel"; we celebrate the birth of "God with us."

So the meaning of Christmas is that God’s intimate, visible presence with fallen mankind has been reestablished. God is now with us in the person and work of Jesus Christ. The question is: “What does it mean for you and me that the Immanuel has been born?” Three things!

First, it means salvation. The Immanuel is a sign of God's visible saving presence. The Immanuel is a sign that God will deliver His people. Remember what the angel said to Joseph, the husband of Mary! (Matthew 1.21) The Savior is the Immanuel and the Immanuel is the Savior!

The birth of the Immanuel means salvation from sin for everyone who believes (Rom 1:16), for everyone who repents of their sin and exercises faith in the powerful presence of Jesus, the Christ, the Messiah.

Second, the birth of the Immanuel means that God will not leave, forsake, or fail His people. The name "Immanuel" is a watchword among God's people; it is a word of hope. No matter how desperate conditions become we know that God is with us (Romans 8. 38-39).

Third, the birth of the Immanuel means we have no reason for ungodly fear. "If God is for us and with us, who can be against us?" asks Paul (Rom 8:31)? We know that no evil, no world, no flesh, no devil is so great that the actual presence of God in Christ Jesus and in our lives is not more than able to overcome it.

enjoy, ron

Friday, December 15, 2006

Bible Humor?


It’s been some time now since I’ve posted a little humor. I know that the below story isn’t new but what is? Besides I’m going with a safe one here. I hope it doesn't bomb!

There was this Christian lady that had to do a lot of traveling for her business, so she did a lot of flying. Flying made her nervous, so she always took her Bible along with her to read and it helped relax her.

One time, she was sitting next to a man of letters. When he saw her pull out her Bible, he gave a little chuckle and went back to what he was doing.

After awhile, unable to resist, he turned to her and asked, "You don't really believe all that stuff in there do you?"

The lady replied, "Of course I do. It is the Holy Bible."

He said, "Well, what about that guy that was swallowed by that whale?"

She replied, "Oh, Jonah. Yes, I believe that, it is in the Bible."

He asked, "Well, how do you suppose he survived all that time inside the whale?"

The lady said, "Well, I don't really know all the details. I guess when I get to heaven, I’ll ask him."

"What if he isn't in heaven?" the man asked mockingly.

"Then you can ask him." replied the lady confidently.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes (Rom 1.16).

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ (Rom 10.17).

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Hebrews 4.12)

enjoy, ron

Monday, December 11, 2006

Hebrews 9 & 10

Our Wednesday night Bible Study group is just entering a verse by verse study of the book of Hebrews. This video is from the WorshipGod06 Conference Aug. 9-12, 2006. Ryan Ferguson is giving a memorized dramatic recitation of Hebrews 9 & 10 from the ESV Bible. Take a listen! God’s Word is powerful!

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version is copyright ©2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Einstein & a personal God

We read in 1 Corinthians 2.6-16 that a message of wisdom is spoken among the mature or spiritual. But this sort of wisdom remains a mystery to those without the Spirit, regardless their genius.

Albert Einstein knew something about mystery and considered himself to be a deeply religious man. We are told that he came to this position through his deep sense of the incomprehensible mystery in which he thought the cosmos was implanted. As far as we know, Einstein also looked favorably on the ethical teachings of Jesus and the prophets. However, he considered belief in a personal God to be the main obstacle to the reconciliation of science and religion. What do you think? Is belief in a personal God compatible with a scientific understanding of the world?

The Apostle Paul informs us that a person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God (2.14). So how is it that a human being, even an unscientific one, can know the wisdom of God? How can a person make such a high and exalted claim as to know the very mind of God, specifically, to have the mind of Christ (16b)?

In other words, how does the Spirit work? How does He impart this wisdom, this mind, to humankind? We are told that the Spirit's activity is an action of inward illumination (vv. 10, 13). That is, a person's natural, spiritual blindness is removed, the veil is taken from the eyes of their heart, their pride & their prejudice are alike broken down, & they’re given an understanding of spiritual realities.

The wisdom of God would have never been discovered by scientific investigation alone. Further, without the Spirit’s intervention, it would have never occurred to Einstein that God was (and is) personal. For as verse 7 says, it’s a "secret & hidden wisdom," or it’s a wisdom "in a mystery & concealed." So the only way for anyone to know it is for God to reveal it. Revelation is the act of God whereby what once was concealed from us is now made known to us.

Paul tells us something about this process in vv 10–13. He uses an analogy: among humankind a person's thoughts & concerns are only known to the spirit of that person. And only if he wills can another person become privy to what those thoughts & concerns are. If one desires one can reveal his thoughts. So it is with God: no one knows God’s mind except God’s own Spirit. But God has willed to impart God’s wisdom by his Spirit.

Consequently, it is not belief in a personal God that stands as the main obstacle to the reconciliation of science and religion. It is unbelief! After all without faith in a personal God (revealed by and through the Spirit in the Person and work of Jesus Christ) no one can even begin to plum the elements of compatibility between religious truth and a scientific understanding of the world?

Friday, December 01, 2006

Mind Games!

As most of you know the word "philosophy" means "love of wisdom." Personally, I have long considered myself a lover and seeker of wisdom. Christians would be hard put to oppose philosophy in principle. After all, in light of 1 Corinthians 2.6 “…we do speak wisdom!" There is a wisdom which we are commanded to seek and which we should treasure and which we speak. In that sense all Christians should be amateur philosophers - lovers and seekers of wisdom

All through the early years of my call to Christ, I was relentlessly challenged by and compelled to read the biblical wisdom literature. For example, “My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding…” (Proverbs 2.1-6).

Of course there can be no saving faith that rests on the wisdom of men (1 Corinthians 2.5). After all, according to 1 Corinthians 1.18ff worldly wisdom considers salvation through a crucified Christ to be foolishness! Absolute nonsense! Now the reason it does is because, on the one hand, the death of Christ is a severe indictment of humankind’s utterly sinful condition, but, on the other hand, the wisdom of the world is totally devoted to achieving and maintaining its own self-sufficiency and ground for boasting.

It’s important to note that the use of the mind per se isn’t evil. Believer’s are not to be anti-intellectual. Rather the Scripture is concerned with how you use your mind, what it comes up with, what it is motivated by (Romans 12.1-2). Which means that the alternative to a self-important use of the mind should not be no use but rather a Christ centered use. The alternative to self-righteous competence is not selfless incompetence but Christ competence.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Wilberforce & salvation!

There is a famous story from the days following the Great Awakening. It concerns two prominent men of that day, William Wilberforce, the member of Parliament who was so instrumental in the abolition of the slave trade in the British Empire and his friend, William Pitt, the younger, who was once Prime Minister of Britain.

Now Wilberforce had become a devout Christian and Pitt was a Christian only in the nominal, formal sense. One common among the upper classes in Britain in those days. But, notwithstanding this difference in viewpoint, the two refined gentlemen remained personal friends.

But, as Christians will be, Wilberforce was concerned for his friend and wanted him to find Jesus Christ. After many attempts, Wilberforce finally prevailed upon Pitt to accompany him to hear the renowned evangelical preacher, Richard Cecil. Cecil was a gospel luminary in that second generation of Awakening men, a good friend of John Newton.

So the two men went along to the service. According to Wilberforce, Cecil was at his very best that day and preached the gospel in a most powerful and elevating way. Wilberforce himself was carried away by the sermon and wondered the whole time what his friend Pitt was thinking as he heard this masterful presentation of salvation in Christ.

Well, he didn't have long to wait before finding out. As they were still making their way out of the building after the service, Pitt turned to his friend and said, "You know, Wilberforce, I haven't the slightest idea what that man has been talking about." And, of course, he didn't. He couldn't grasp it. It made no sense to him. What was light and life and the plainest sense to Wilberforce was so much confusion and silliness to Pitt.

But the natural man cannot understand the things of the Spirit of God (see 1 Cor. 2.14). Indeed, it is this fact that explains why, in the Bible, no one is ever surprised by unbelief. Jesus never was. Paul never was. Unbelief is mankind's natural state and it will never be surmounted unless the Holy Spirit works.

Saturday, November 25, 2006


What is Cross-living? Sounds like the title to a new TV mini-series. What does Cross-living have to do with a world of pleasure seekers?

Jesus stated in Luke 9:23 - "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself & take up his cross daily & follow me." When Christ died on the cross for sinners he not only stood in my place, doing what I never could do, but he also showed me how to Cross-live.

Christ’s death saves us from eternal death but not from the cross life! He died so that we could be glorified, but not to keep us from being crucified. "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself & take up his cross daily." For the Christian the cross of Christ isn’t merely a past place of substitution. It’s also a present place of daily putting to death. That is Cross-living!

We can never let the cross lose its crucifying power in our life! We can never let it slip into the muted & murky past as though Christ died for sinners so that we can live for pleasure. That is pleasure-living!

Eternal pleasures are coming! Many are already here! (forgiveness & acceptance & holiness & healing). But just like Jesus endured the cross for the joy that was set before him, so it is with us in this fallen age (Hebrews 12:1-11). Since most of the joy we long for is still over the horizon, we are to "…go forth to him outside the camp, bearing abuse for him. For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city which is to come" (Hebrews 13:13-14).

In other words if you would save your life you must lose it & if you would follow Jesus you must take up Cross-living daily. The huge calamity of much contemporary Christianity is that Cross-living has no appeal. And practically what it means is that Jesus lived in poverty so that I might live in wealth. And the more stuff we have the more we honor the cross - so goes the prosperity gospel.

So what is Cross-living? Plainly put it is taking up my own cross & dying to self, daily.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Word of the Cross!

Note: It's been some time since I posted. Thought I might show a couple paragraphs from today's sermon. I'm currently preaching through 1Corinthains.

In verse 18 of 1 Corinthians 1, the Apostle Paul begins by saying: "For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing…" They are perishing precisely because they don’t know themselves to be perishing. They have no idea of their desperate need for salvation. As Paul says of himself in Rom 7, Christ never made any sense to him until he first realized himself a sinner, in bondage to sin, & in desperate need of redemption.

The word of the cross doesn’t belong to the perishing but to those "who are being saved." God has built His kingdom in such a way that the Saved are entrusted with the word of the cross. Plain & simple! The word of the cross stands alone! It alone will cut to the heart of all self centeredness. It alone is central to salvation.

It belongs to the saved but it stands alone! We need not "decorate" the cross with any earthly wisdom or technique so as to make it more acceptable to the perishing. The power of the cross rests in the Word! There’s nothing we can do to make the Gospel more palatable to a hard heart. Only if the Spirit of God goes forth first & makes dead people alive will the word of the cross be effectual. Therefore, we rely on God's good purposes in regeneration, not our oratory skill or technological prowess or worldly wisdom.

Enjoy, Ron

Thursday, October 19, 2006

David Eugene!

David Eugene Edwards is the lead singer, main songwriter and principal musician of the Woven Hand band. He is the former lead singer of 16 Horsepower. His music defies simple genre categorization and his lyrics often combine the apocalyptic elements of darkness, judgment and redemption. It’s my kind of popular Christian music never heard on popular Christian radio stations. His theological bent is Reformed/Calvinistic and on stage his performances are evangelistically intense, eerie and persuasive.

Edwards performs on the soundtrack to the short film "Searching for the Wrong-Eyed Jesus," playing the traditional "Wayfarin' Stranger." He also appears in this religiously agile film, playing a fragment of "Phyllis Ruth," a Sixteen Horsepower song from 1997's Low Estate.

If you haven’t heard David Eugene, it’s time! Don’t delay! Start now my little Pilgrim’s Progress!

The above image is of David Eugene Edwards of 16 Horsepower/Woven Hand performing solo at Debaser in Stockholm, Sweden, 2004-05-25. (c) Anders Jensen-Urstad.


Thursday, September 21, 2006

Back to school!

My youngest daughter (12 yrs) is attending a charter school this year. It was established in our community a couple of years ago and begins with the 6th grade. The interesting thing about this school is its emphasis on a classic education and its curriculum has a medieval flavor.

The focus is on the liberal arts. First the "trivium" of grammar (including Latin) , rhetoric (with an emphasis on letter writing), and dialectic (logic and reasoning). Then the "quadrivium" of arithmetic, history, science, and music.

This course of study could be arduous for my daughter who spent her grammar school years in a French Immersion school. She is a high energy gal and bound to become bored and impatient. She is not alone in this matter. It is a time honored experience. The story goes that a number of students evidently grew impatient toward the end of the day during medieval school days as well. It seems there was a law on the books in Padua that prohibited students from pounding on their desks to force the teacher to dismiss class early.

Nevertheless, despite the rigors and boredom of formal education, many new students are flocking to this charter school. Also, my daughter’s classical curriculum may once again transform my own educational horizon. Vicariously, I’m feeling a pinch of educational excitement, thanks partly to the challenge of learning Latin and reading Homer again.

Want to learn more?
Explore the medieval curriculum

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Be Reasonable Pope!

Islamic militants in Iraq and the Palestinian Territories (PT) have threatened to destroy churches and kill Christians in response to Pope Benedict's speech at the University of Regensburg. It seems that a 14th Century Byzantine emperor quoted in the Pope's address had asserted that violent Islamic jihad is evil and essentially unreasonable because it is contrary to the very nature of God. The pope himself has said his talk was meant to increase dialogue between religious traditions. If his only true intention was to cultivate dialogue and not to criticize, why did the pope decide to evoke Islamic violence rather than the history of Catholic violence to make his point? What, exactly, does he mean to say about the differences between Christianity and Islam? For that matter, what about the differences between Catholicism and Protestantism?

Let’s look at some raw and painful facts. Two of seven churches already attacked in PT have been destroyed. A 70-year-old nun was ambushed and shot in the back in Somalia. Al-Qaeda in Iraq has vowed to 'destroy the cross', slit the throats of Christians and make their belongings and children the bounty of the mujahideen.

Note 1: Pray for these most vulnerable and endangered Christian believers, that God will be their deliverer.

Note 2: Ramadan starts on 24 September - the 30 Day Muslim Prayer Focus is available at <http://www.30-days.net/>.

Note 3:For the full text of the Pope's speech at the University of Regensburg: <http://www.cwnews.com/news/viewstory.cfm?recnum=46474>

Note 4: I personally disagree with the Pope's assertion that the Reformers sacrificed reason in the pursuit of Biblical faith but do not see this as grounds for global Protestant rioting.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Just Walk'n

Listening to Dylan’s Modern Times isn’t the only reason I haven't been posting lately. Things are dreadfully busy in my life. For example, within the past thirty days, I started a new company, began a novel bi-vocational relationship with my church and refereed five of my seven children back to school (three in college).

Be with you soon, ron

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Levee's gonna break muse!

Although “Everybody saying this is a day only the Lord could make”, a broken levee was the chief culprit behind the deluge of New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina last year. Unfortunately, it kept on rainin’ and many were flooded out of their homes; some died!

Floods are insidious that way. Since the days of Noah, they remain one of humanity's greatest scourges. Despite all our modern times know-how, handymen and engineers still reckon with a simple truth: "The levee gonna break."

And according to ancient myth when the levee broke:

The gods were frightened by the deluge,
And, shrinking back, they ascended to the heaven of Anu.
The gods cowered like dogs
Crouched against the outer wall.

- Utnapishtim, The Epic of Gilgamesh

Of course, there’s always the Millennium, Few more years of hard work, then there'll be a 1,000 years of happiness, at least, for those who are awake when she breaks: “Some people still sleepin', some people are wide awake.”

Reminiscent of the Preacher’s verdict in Ecclesiastes: “Without you there's no meaning in anything I do.” Speaking of meaning, I’m thinking of Christ Jesus when I hear:

Well, I look in your eyes, I see nobody other than me
I look in your eyes, I see nobody other than me
I see all that I am and all I hope to be.

If it keeps on rainin’ the levee gonna break! Yet, some of these people don't know which road to take!

On the sinner impose his sin,
On the transgressor impose his transgression!
Yet be lenient, lest he be cut off,
Be patient, lest he be dislodged.
Instead of thy bringing on the deluge,
Would that a lion had risen up to diminish mankind!
Instead of thy bringing on the deluge,
Would that a wolf had risen up to diminish mankind!
Instead of thy bringing on the deluge,
Would that a famine had risen up to lay low mankind!
Instead of thy bringing on the deluge,
Would that pestilence had risen up to smite down mankind
- Utnapishtim, The Epic of Gilgamesh

"So, Put on your cat clothes, mama, put on your evening dress!"

After the deluge in Genesis, Noah gets his reward, not only in the form of God's covenant, but also in grilled steak and a nice merlot. Genesis notes that God allows Noah and his descendants to eat meat (9:2-4) and that Noah, thirsty for more than water, plants a fine vineyard (9:20). "I woke up this morning, butter and eggs in my bed."

"Riches and salvation can be waiting behind the next bend in the road!"

A little "gutter" talk, ron

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Ain't talkin' yet!

Today I’m glad to have Dylan around! Remember this; he’s your servant both night and day. As I continue listening to his new album, I’m becoming extra nostalgic and hope sincerely that some sweet day I'll stand the strain with Dylan along side our king…

more to come, ron

Monday, August 28, 2006

B.D. Here!

Finally! It’s here! If you need me, I’ll be listening to Bob Dylan’s new album, Modern Times for the next several days. When I come back to the blog, the Lord willing, I’ll give you my read on it.

treasure, ron

Monday, August 14, 2006

Dylan Update!

Michael Gray dropped me the following e-mail...

Dear Rev Ron,

Thanks for your enthusiastic splash about The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia on your blog. And if you can indeed attend my event at Magers & Quinn on the last day of this month, then please don't just loiter at the back - come and say hello!

Kind regards
Michael Gray

FYI: Here’s the Minneapolis update:

Thurs Aug 31, 7pm: Magers & Quinn, Minneapolis
MNtalk: ‘The A-Z of Bob Dylan’
3038 Hennepin Avenue South
Minneapolis MN 55408tel: 612-822-4611

BTW: Columbia Records have invited me to a listening party for Bob Dylan's forthcoming album, Modern Times – to hear selections from the album, while snacking on free food and beverages.

Listening parties will be held in the following locations:

Philly -- Sun, 8/20 -- 7pm
Chicago -- Mon, 8/21 -- 7pm
San Francisco -- Mon, 8/21 -- 630pm
Los Angeles -- Mon, 8/21 -- 7pm
Austin -- Mon, 8/21 -- 7pm
New York -- Tue, 8/22 -- 7pm
Minneapolis -- Tue, 8/22 -- 7pm
Boston -- Wed, 8/23 -- 7pm
Seattle -- Thurs, 8/24 -- 7pm


enjoy, ron

Friday, August 11, 2006

Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man!

Hallelujah” was my introduction to Leonard Cohen’s world of poetic song. His voice and lyrics mystically combined to capture my attention and fondness. Although Cohen is not a born from above Christian, he is a kindred soul in his search for truth. At 72 now, I continue to pray that he will come to the One who is Truth for good!

At any rate , last week I found a little time to view a moving and insightful documentary about Cohen. For the most part, I was enthralled with its mellifluous simplicity. Popular musical performance and poetic profundity often make for ambivalent partners. Somewhere in the documentary, U2’s Bono says something like: “Leonard Cohen came along and demonstrated how you could get the biggest questions to fit into the proportions of a pop song.” That just about says it all. At the heart of the film is footage from a concert held in Australia with such outstanding and unusual artists as Nick Cave, Beth Orton, Rufus Wainwright, and the Handsome Family covering such Cohen classics as “Suzanne,” “Sisters of Mercy,” “Anthem,” “If It Be Your Will,” and “Tower of Song.” Old footage of Cohen’s youth in Canada supplies emotionally resonant visual imagery. The interviews are succinct and revelatory - in addition to Bono, we hear from a variety of commentators, including Hal Wilner, who organized the concert, and the ever-thoughtful Nick Cave. And then there is the figure of Cohen himself: suave yet humble, serious but wry, a man of many parts. By the end of the documentary, when Cohen performs “Tower of Song” along with U2, you may find it hard to keep your eyes entirely dry. This documentary is the first film by Lian Lunson and it is an auspicious beginning indeed.

If you live near a large city, check your local listings and see this documentary in the movie theater as I did last week. Such a viewing will get the full effect of the concert footage. Anchored firmly in this world, Cohen’s imagination has always seen our life sub specie aeternitatis. As he says in “Anthem”: “There’s a crack... a crack in everything... that’s how the light gets in.” Poet, novelist, songwriter, sometime Zen monk, Judeo-Christian forager of the mysteries of the pilgrim life, Cohen is definitely your man.

The film’s official website can be found here.
Buy the soundtrack here.
Leonard Cohen from Wikipedia click here.
Bird on a Wire: Cohen’s home page.

Cohen quote: What is a saint? A saint is someone who has achieved a remote human possibility. It is impossible to say what that possibility is. I think it has something to do with the energy of love. Contact with this energy results in the exercise of a kind of balance in the chaos of existence. A saint does not dissolve the chaos; if he did the world would have changed long ago. I do not think that a saint dissolves the chaos even for himself, for there is something arrogant and warlike in the notion of a man setting the universe in order. It is a kind of balance that is his glory. He rides the drifts like an escaped ski. His course is the caress of the hill. His track is a drawing of the snow in a moment of its particular arrangement with wind and rock. Something in him so loves the world that he gives himself to the laws of gravity and chance. Far from flying with the angels, he traces with the fidelity of a seismograph needle the state of the solid bloody landscape. His house is dangerous and finite, but he is at home in the world. He can love the shape of human beings, the fine and twisted shapes of the heart. It is good to have among us such men, such balancing monsters of love. - L. Cohen, Beautiful Losers (1966)

enjoy, ron

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Marriage & the Public Good: The Princeton Principles!

The Witherspoon Institute has published online the document, Marriage and the Public Good: Ten Principles. Here's what The Princeton Principles website says about the document:

The "Ten Principles on Marriage and the Public Good" are the result of scholarly discussions that began in December, 2004 at a meeting in Princeton, New Jersey, sponsored by the Witherspoon Institute. This conference brought together scholars from History, Economics, Psychiatry, Law, Sociology and Philosophy to share with each other the findings of their research on why marriage is in the public interest. A consensus developed for sharing the fruit of their collaboration more widely.

The Witherspoon Institute is an independent research center located in Princeton, New Jersey. It is not connected to Princeton University, Princeton Theological Seminary, The Center for Theological Inquiry, or the Institute for Advanced Study.

You can read the document in its entirety here. The document's signatories may be found here. The document's executive summary follows.

In recent years, marriage has weakened, with serious negative consequences for society as a whole. Four developments are especially troubling: divorce, illegitimacy, cohabitation, and same-sex marriage.

The purpose of this document is to make a substantial new contribution to the public debate over marriage. Too often, the rational case for marriage is not made at all or not made very well. As scholars, we are persuaded that the case for marriage can be made and won at the level of reason. Marriage protects children, men and women, and the common good. The health of marriage is particularly important in a free society, which depends upon citizens to govern their private lives and rear their children responsibly, so as to limit the scope, size, and power of the state. The nation's retreat from marriage has been particularly consequential for our society's most vulnerable communities: minorities and the poor pay a disproportionately heavy price when marriage declines in their communities. Marriage also offers men and women as spouses a good they can have in no other way: a mutual and complete giving of the self. Thus, marriage understood as the enduring union of husband and wife is both a good in itself and also advances the public interest.

We affirm the following ten principles that summarize the value of marriage- a choice that most people want to make, and that society should endorse and support.

Ten Principles on Marriage and the Public Good:

1. Marriage is a personal union, intended for the whole of life, of husband and wife.
2. Marriage is a profound human good, elevating and perfecting our social and sexual nature.
3. Ordinarily, both men and women who marry are better off as a result.
4. Marriage protects and promotes the wellbeing of children.
5. Marriage sustains civil society and promotes the common good.
6. Marriage is a wealth-creating institution, increasing human and social capital.
7. When marriage weakens, the equality gap widens, as children suffer from the disadvantages of growing up in homes without committed mothers and fathers.
8. A functioning marriage culture serves to protect political liberty and foster limited government.
9. The laws that govern marriage matter significantly.
10. "Civil marriage" and "religious marriage" cannot be rigidly or completely divorced from one another.

This understanding of marriage is not narrowly religious, but the cross-cultural fruit of broad human experience and reflection, and supported by considerable social science evidence. But a marriage culture cannot flourish in a society whose primary institutions-universities, courts, legislatures, religions-not only fail to defend marriage but actually undermine it both conceptually and in practice.

Creating a marriage culture is not the job for government. Families, religious communities, and civic institutions-along with intellectual, moral, religious, and artistic leaders-point the way. But law and public policy will either reinforce and support these goals or undermine them. We call upon our nation's leaders, and our fellow citizens, to support public policies that strengthen marriage as a social institution including:

1. Protect the public understanding of marriage as the union of one man with one woman as husband and wife.
2. Investigate divorce law reforms.
3. End marriage penalties for low-income Americans.
4. Protect and expand pro-child and pro-family provisions in our tax code.
5. Protect the interests of children from the fertility industry.

Families, religious communities, community organizations, and public policymakers must work together towards a great goal: strengthening marriage so that each year more children are raised by their own mother and father in loving, lasting marital unions. The future of the American experiment depends on it. And our children deserve nothing less.

enjoy, ron

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Dylan Encyclopedia!

The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia is off the press and coming to my home town via its author, Michael Gray. Richard Corliss of Time says this book: “has all you need to know, and more” with regard to everyone and everything interconnecting with one of our greatest living artists: Bob Dylan. Gray’s work is the culmination of 30 years of research. The New York Review of Books says Gray is “probably Dylan’s most assiduous critic.” Click on this recent conversation with Michael Gray where he briefly reflects on the writing of the Encyclopedia and recalls a few of his first impressions of Dylan.

The book sellers web-site boasts the following description and more: “The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia is one of the most wide-ranging, informed, entertaining, provocative, and compulsively readable books ever written about popular music.”

It's the culmination of over thirty years of dedicated research and scholarship by Michael Gray. Over the course of 823 pages Gray considers everything from railroad imagery in Dylan's songs to his use of nursery rhymes, covering the topics thoughtfully and thoroughly. It's a world of ideas, facts, and opinions in which everyone and everything interconnects, in endlessly fascinating ways, with one of our greatest living artists: Bob Dylan. Plus, 100 b&w illustrations.

So if you happen to be in Minneapolis, MN on August 31, 2006 with a little time on your hands, why not stop by Magers and Quinn Booksellers at 3038 Hennepin Avenue South around 7 pm for a listen. The event will feature one of three multi-media, Bob Dylan-centric presentations: Bob Dylan and the Blues, Bob Dylan and the History of Rock’n’Roll, or Bob Dylan: A-Z. I understand that Mr. Gray is a charismatic and charming speaker. Look for me in the back of the crowd!

The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia by Michael Gray
Pub Date: 21 May 2006
ISBN: 0826469337
Hardcover, 784 Pages, $40.00

Amazon.com: List Price: $40.00 Price: $25.20 & this item ships for FREE with Super Saver.. You Save: $14.80 (37%)

Note: As Bob readies Modern Times for release (pre-ordered DVD today), and kicks off the next leg of the Neverending Tour, the book is already out of date, so I presume we can expect a second edition in a couple of years. Given Gray's track record on new editions it might be wise to start saving now for the 2nd edition of this excellent book.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

I've Found It!

When it comes to mathematicians, Archimedes was the greatest! He’s right up there with Isaac Newton and Carl Friedrich Gauss. The son of an astronomer, Archimedes was born around 290 BC in the Sicilian city of Syracuse.

Archimedes worked in practically every area of mathematics. His bathtub study of buoyancy is the foundation of modern hydrostatics. The story behind the study goes as follows:

It seems that King Hiero had commissioned a new royal crown for which he provided solid gold to the goldsmith. When the crown arrived, however, King Hiero was suspicious that the wily goldsmith only used a bit of the gold, kept the rest for himself and added silver or lead to make the crown the correct weight. Archimedes was asked to determine whether or not the crown was pure gold without harming it in the process. Archimedes was perplexed but found the needed inspiration while enjoying a stress relieving bath. He noticed that the full bath overflowed when he lowered himself into it, and suddenly grasped that he could measure the crown's volume by the amount of water it displaced. Instantly he knew that since he could measure the crown's volume, all he had to do was discover its weight in order to calculate its density and hence its purity. Archimedes was so exuberant about his discovery that he riotously ran down the streets of Syracuse naked shouting, "Eureka!" which meant "I've found it!" in Greek.

Click here to see the illustrated version of the "Eureka" story, drawn by Kal, noted illustrator and cartoonist for the Baltimore Sun.

FYI: Over the past 11 days, according to KnowledgeNews, Discovery of the Week report, scientists at Stanford University's Linear Accelerator Center have been using powerful X-rays to read as many as 15 pages of Archimedes' work that no one has read in nearly 800 years. A medieval monk, not realizing that he had in his hands the only known copy of several of Archimedes' texts, erased the one-of-a-kind pages around the year 1229. He scraped off the ink, cut the parchment in two, and used it to record prayers. Some 20th-century forgers later erased more pages, when they painted over them to make the manuscript look more valuable.

Despite this mathematical mutilation, the scientists' X-rays - a million times more powerful than the ones used to see your bones - can still illuminate what's left of the ancient ink. The technique is called X-ray fluorescence, and scientists say that it's allowing us to re-read "one of the greatest figures of western civilization."

enjoy, ron

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Election of Grace!

The ground of election to salvation is the good pleasure of God (Eph. 1:5, 11; Matt. 11:25, 26; John 15:16, 19). God claims the right so to do (Rom. 9:16, 21).

It is not conditioned on faith or repentance, but is of sovereign grace (Rom. 11:4-6; Eph. 1:3-6). All that pertain to salvation, the means (Eph. 2:8; 2 Thess. 2:13) as well as the end, are of God (Acts 5:31; 2 Tim. 2:25; 1 Cor. 1:30; Eph. 2:5, 10). Faith and repentance and all other graces are the exercises of a regenerated soul; and regeneration is God's work, a "new creature."

Humankind are elected "to salvation," "to the adoption of sons," "to be holy and without blame before him in love" (2 Thess. 2:13; Gal. 4:4, 5; Eph. 1:4). The ultimate end of election is the praise of God's grace (Eph. 1:6, 12).

“Union between Christ and his people was planned already in eternity, in the sovereign pretemporal decision whereby God the Father selected us as his own. Christ himself was chosen to be our Savior before the creation of the world (1 Pet. 1:20); Ephesians 1:4 teaches us that when the Father chose Christ, he also chose us.” - Anthony Hoekema

The election of grace is the eternal beginning of all the ways and works of God in Jesus Christ. In Jesus Christ God in his free grace determines himself for sinful man and sinful man for himself. He therefore takes upon himself the rejection of man with all its consequences, and elects man to participation in his own glory.” - Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics II/2, p. 94.

Election is the unchangeable purpose of God, whereby, before the foundation of the world, He has out of mere grace, according to the sovereign good pleasure of His own will, chosen from the whole human race, which had fallen through their own fault from the primitive state of rectitude into sin and destruction, a certain number of persons to redemption in Christ, whom He from eternity appointed the Mediator and Head of the elect and the foundation of salvation. This elect number, though by nature neither better nor more deserving than others, but with them involved in one common misery, God has decreed to give to Christ to be saved by Him, and effectually to call and draw them to His communion by His Word and Spirit; to bestow upon them true faith, justification, and sanctification; and having powerfully preserved them in the fellowship of His son, finally to glorify them for the demonstration of His mercy, and for the praise of the riches of His glorious grace; as it is written "For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will--to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves." (Eph 1:4-6). And elsewhere: "And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified." (Rom 8:30). - Canons of Dort (1619). First Head: Article 7

enjoy, ron

Friday, August 04, 2006

Barth & Dylan again!

Interestingly, David Williamson and I have a few things in common. Both of us have a fondness for Karl Barth and Bob Dylan. Recently, with the imminent release of the first Bob Dylan album (Modern Times) in half a decade, Williamson posted a insightful and witty little chitchat on Bob Dylan’s music.

Additionally, artistically (not necessarily theologically) he has created a short film (5-minute) about Karl Barth and the women in his life. When you click, be patient; the file is 12MB, the short delay is worth the wait.

BTW: The tracklisting for 'Modern Times' is:

'Thunder On The Mountain'
'Spirit On The Water'
'Rollin' And Tumblin''
'When The Deal Goes Down"
'Someday Baby'
'Workingman's Blues #2'
'Beyond The Horizon'
'Nettie Moore'
'The Levee's Gonna Break'
'Ain't Talkin''

enjoy, ron


Postmodern-for-certaintly-not! One of the core doctrines of the confused, culture-driven, modern Church is the philosophy of alleged postmodernism with its assertion that truth cannot be known with certainty. But here is what the Lord says of His true sheep:

"Now they have come to know that everything You have given Me is from You; for the Words which You gave Me I have given to them; and they received them and truly understood that I came forth from You, and they believed that You sent Me." (NASB, John 17:7-8)

enjoy, ron

Rain Down!

While surfing the web for something up-to-the-minute in the Christian ghetto, I happened on this new money-maker, the "Jesus Reigns" umbrella complete with fish symbol. Someone out there in the web-rain suggested that this might come in handy at the upcoming Downpour conference with Beth Moore and Friends.

enjoy, ron

Sunday, July 02, 2006


Where do you go when the best of human wisdom can’t supply meaning to life (Eccl 1.12-18; 2.12-17), & when pleasure can’t supply satisfaction either (2.1-11)? Try work (2.17-26)! Thus the Preacher takes us from the contemplative life; wisdom is the way of meaning, to the sensuous life; pleasure as the way of meaning & satisfaction, to the active life, work, vocation, projects, activity as the way that meaning can be supplied for life.

I’m reminded of Maynard G. Krebs, Dobie Gillis's best friend on the TV series "The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis". Played by Bob Denver, Maynard was the first beatnik on national TV.

His speech was full of colorful phrases such as "You rang?" and "Like, I'm getting all misty". But, for me, Maynard G. Krebs will always be best remembered for his response whenever anyone mentioned the subject of work. He would instantaneously shudder, and let out a plaintiff cry of "WORK!?!?"

One of the most moving points in the whole OT is found in Ecclesiastes 2.20b: “I despaired of all of the fruit of my labor”!

Now, work is a wonderful thing, & a work ethic is a wonderful thing, & our work ethic is a great strength, & by & large, has come to us from biblical origins, but the evil one can use even good things against us & if we’re trying to find meaning in our work alone, if we’re trying to find significance & satisfaction in our work, then the Preacher is telling us we’ll not find it there.

Nevertheless, when work is done in and for the Lord, it benefits others and honors God. In fact, it’s in creative activity that we externalize our identities as people made in the image of God. After all, work is not a result of the fall! It’s a part of God’s created order for humanity (Gen 2:5, 15), and it’s patterned after God Himself. We are called to do our work as unto the Lord (Eph 6:5-8; Col 3:23-24).

Friday, June 23, 2006

Soul Winner!

“Jesus says, ‘Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men;’ but if you go in your own way, with your own net, you will make nothing of it, and the Lord promises you no help in it. The Lord's directions make Himself our Leader and Example. It is, ‘Follow Me, follow Me. Preach My gospel. Preach what I preached. Teach what I taught, and keep to that.With that blessed servility which becomes one whose ambition it is to be a copyist, and never to be an original, copy Christ even in jots and tittles. Do this, and He will make you fishers of men; but if you do not do this, you shall fish in vain.”

  • from Charles Spurgeon's book Soul Winner

Sunday, June 18, 2006

T. Dungy!

Religious news blogger dpulliam over at getreligion.org has this great Father’s day feature update on Tony Dungy. It is his take on a recent ESPN.com piece about the Indianapolis Colts football coach and older brother of one of my good friends to be aired tonight (06/18/06).

Dpulliam says, “The article is rich with theology and even concludes with a Scripture reference. Many of Dungy’s words are unrecognized paraphrases of the Bible and one I’d like to highlight in particular comes from Mark 8:36: What profit is there for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?

For a good dose of Dungy and his faith follow the links in the getreligion.org story. Or click, here and then here and here.

Happy Father’s Day!

Photo courtesy of Flickr.

Saturday, June 17, 2006


I’m preaching through the book of Ecclesiastes this summer. You talk about vanity! What an adventure.. been there done that is written throughout this book. Interestingly, Koheleth not only did what he said but liked doing it and did it better than all before him. Is this ever a book for our time. One blogger calls it a Woody Allen film flanked by Cecil B DeMille epics. In our postmodern age where absolute meaning is no longer necessary for life, our personal quest for eternal significance in the face of hebel* has never been more bewildering or compelling.

*Note: the Hebrew word used to describe “life under the sun” in Ecclesiastes is HEBEL, meaning breath or vapor. Hebel is meaningless, futile, vapid, fleeting.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Bob is Back!

The announcement came just a few days ago!

In August this year, Bob Dylan will be releasing a new album entitled Modern Times - his first original album since the dark, eerie and ugly 11 September 2001. "This is a sad and lonesome day." (Bob Dylan, "Lonesome Day Blues", Love and Theft: released that day)

The apocalyptic Dylan has long been prophesying the end of the world - but if it doesn’t end before the release of Modern Times, you’ll find me with head phones, unreservedly and enthusiastically, listening to Dylan’s lyrical take on the postmodern world.


“It was in the vocabulary of the language of beauty that Edwards expressed his most important theological and philosophical ideas.... For Edwards, [God] was the ‘foundation and fountain’ of all beauty. The triune God was seen to be a society of love and beauty. God’s Holy Spirit was beauty. All beauty, indeed all creation, was the overflow of God’s inner-trinitarian beauty. Beauty was, for Edwards, the very structure of being.”

Louis J. Mitchell, Jonathan Edwards on the Experience of Beauty (Studies in Reformed Theology and History, New Series No. 9; Princeton: Princeton Theological Seminary, 2003), p. 105.

Thursday, June 08, 2006


Once a young man was sitting on a bench and an old man, a preacher, sat down too. The old preacher looked at the beautiful sunset and sighed the sigh of the delighted. The young man said to him, "what was that?" The preacher replied, "I'm stricken by the beauty of God's handiwork". The young man scoffed, "God, there is no God. This all just evolved." The preacher looked at the young man and said, "will you be here again tomorrow?" The youngster said "yes".

The next day the preacher was sitting on the bench when the young man returned. Out of a satchel the old man pulled a beautiful painting depicting a glorious sunset. He passed it over to the boy who gasped at the work. "Who painted this?" he asked in excitement. "No one", said the preacher, it just evolved that way.

The young man said "that's stupid." "Yes", replied the preacher, "it really is, isn't it."

"The fool says in his heart, 'There is no God.'” - Psalm 14:1

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Jeanne d'Arc

"I place trust in God, my creator, in all things; I love Him with all my heart."

On this day in 1431 Jeanne d'Arc (1411-1431) perished at the fiery hands of her English foes. She was subsequently declared innocent by the Inquisition on July 7, 1456 after a lengthy re-trial process which was initiated shortly after the English were finally driven from Rouen, thereby allowing access to the documents and witnesses associated with her trial; the presiding Inquisitor, Jean Bréhal, ruled that the original trial had been tainted by fraud, illegal procedures, and intimidation of both the defendant and many of the clergy who had taken part in the trial, and she was therefore described as a martyr by the Inquisitor.

After the usual lengthy delay associated with the sluggish and questionable process of canonization, she was beatified on April 11, 1909 and canonized as a saint on May 16, 1920.

For some Christians of a different tradition than me, today is the feast day of St. Joan of Arc. Interestingly, it comes on the heels of Memorial Day. I was reminded that many female Christian soldiers wear a medal of Jeanne d'Arc along with their dog tags, seeing as how she was the patron saint for female soldiers (and any female military).

So, while keeping all service personnel in your prayers, today on the feast day of Joan of Arc, keep in mind the American women who have gone to serve and not returned home.

St. Joan refused to follow any command but God's!

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Short verse!

What's the shortest verse in the New Testament?

It's 1 Thessalonians. 5:16: "Always rejoice." ("Jesus wept" is three words in Greek).

Easy to say, difficult to practice.

May God help you to experience His great joy today!

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Witch Hunt!

On this day in 1647, the first recorded execution of a witch in America took place in Massachusetts. Mary Easty was executed as a result of the Salem witch trials in 1692. She sent this letter to Massachusetts authorities shortly before her execution, asking not that her life be saved, but that they improve their methods of discovering witchcraft and that they be more cautious to guard against shedding the blood of innocent people.

“Petition of an Accused Witch
By Mary Easty

The Humble Petition of Mary Easty unto his Excellency Sir William Phips, and to the Honored Judge and Bench now sitting in Judicature in Salem, and the Reverend Ministers, humbly sheweth, that, whereas your poor and humble petitioner, being condemned to die, do humbly beg of you to take it in your judicious and pious consideration, that your poor and humble petitioner, knowing my own innocency, blessed be the Lord for it! and seeing plainly the wiles and subtilty of my accusers by myself, cannot but judge charitably of others that are going the same way of myself if the Lord steps not mightily in. I was confined a whole month upon the same account, that I am condemned now for, and then cleared by the afflicted persons, as some of Your Honors know.

And in two day's time I was cried out upon them, and have been confined, and now am condemned to die. The Lord above knows my innocency then, and likewise does now, as at the great day will be known to men and angels. I petition to Your Honors not for my own life, for I know I must die, and my appointed time is set; but the Lord he knows it is that, if it be possible, no more innocent blood may be shed, which undoubtedly cannot be avoided in the way and course you go in. I question not but Your Honors do to the utmost of your powers in the discovery and detecting of witchcraft and witches, and would not be guilty of innocent blood for the world.

But, by my own innocency, I know you are in the wrong way. The Lord in his infinite mercy direct you in this great work, if it be his blessed will that no more innocent blood be shed! I would humbly beg of you that Your Honors would be pleased to examine these afflicted persons strictly, and keep them apart some time, and likewise to try some of these confessing witches; I being confident there is several of them that has belied themselves and others, as will appear, if not in this world, I am sure in the world to come, whither I am now agoing. I question not but you will see an alteration of these things. They say myself and others having made a league with the Devil, we cannot confess. I know, and the Lord knows, as will appear, they belie me, and so I question not but they do others. The Lord above, who is the searcher of all hearts, knows, as I shall answer it at the tribunal seat, that I know not the least thing of witchcraft; therefore I cannot, I dare not, belie my own soul. I beg Your Honors not to deny this my humble petition from a poor, dying, innocent person. And I question not but the Lord will give a blessing to your endeavors.

Source: Library of Congress.

John Calvin!

On the 27th of May, 1564, John Calvin (Jean Cauvin), died in Geneva. Born at Noyon, France on 10 July 1509, at fourteen he was sent to Paris to study theology, and developed a particular interest in the writings of Augustine. His father then insisted that he take up law instead, which he did for three years, returning to theology when his father died.

In about 1534, he underwent a sudden conversion and became an ardent Protestant. He went to Basel, where he wrote and published the first edition of his Institutes of the Christian Religion, a work of systematic theology and a detailed logical account of grace. His doctrine is rooted in the experience of God's grace at work in his own heart, and unwillingness to attribute its presence to anything but the mercy of God, a determination never to claim that he has done anything more or better than Judas Iscariot to deserve a better destiny.

Calvin’s output was immense. In addition to the Institutes (1700 pages) he wrote commentaries on almost all the books of the Bible: many tracts and treatises discussing important theological controversies; hundreds of sermons (342 on Isaiah alone!); and numerous letters. Every Christian, Calvin insisted, must possess a measure of doctrinal sophistication or be at the mercy of every theological ill-wind. Pastors in particular must be provided with the tools needed for life-long study in service of the Word of God.

The list of ailments from which Calvin suffered is enough to make a person wince. Theodore Beza, his successor in Geneva, wrote of him, "A brave spirit was the master of a feeble body." Nevertheless, Calvin persevered throughout his suffering, working in the last, most difficult years, preaching until eight days before his death. Unflappable in his vocation, he finally had to be carried into the pulpit in Geneva in a chair. A remark in the dedication to his Commentary of II Thessalonians says it all: "My ministry... is dearer to me than life."

Calvin penned his last letter to his dearest friend, Guillaume Farel, only days before he died: "It is enough that I live and die for Christ, who is to all his followers a gain both in life and in death." His grave is unmarked.

Schaff recounts the last months of Calvin's life in some detail in his History of the Christian Church, volume 8. Regarding Calvin’s own last wishes, he writes:

Calvin had expressly forbidden all pomp at his funeral and the erection of any monument over his grave. He wished to be buried, like Moses, out of the reach of idolatry. This was consistent with his theology, which humbles man and exalts God.

Beza, however, wrote a suitable epitaph in Latin and French, which he calls "Parentalia" (i.e. offering at the funeral of a father):

"Shall honored Calvin to the dust return,
From whom e’en Virtue’s self might learn;
Shall he -of falling Rome the greatest dread,
By all the good bewailed, and now (tho’ dead)
The terror of the vile - lie in so mean,
So small a tomb, where not his name is seen?
Sweet Modesty, who still by Calvin’s side
Walked while he lived, here laid him when he died.
O happy tomb with such a tenant graced!
O envied marble o’er his ashes placed!"

Friday, May 26, 2006

Barth's Apologetics?

"By trying to resist and conquer other religions, we put ourselves on the same level. They, too, appeal to this or that immanent truth in them. They, too, can triumph in the power of the religious self-consciousness, and sometimes they have been astonishingly successful over wide areas. Christianity can take part in this fight. There is no doubt that it does not lack the necessary equipment, and can give a good account of itself alongside the other religions. But do not forget that if it does this it has renounced its birthright. It has renounced the unique power which it has as the religion of revelation.

This power dwells only in weakness. ... [Regarding the apologists of the early church] It was a real temptation, not merely to validate Jesus Christ against or for the sinful men of heathen religion, as the sacred books of the Church, the Old Testament and New Testament, demanded, but at the same time (and very quickly on a fairly broad front) to play off the Christian religion as better than the heathen, to contrast Christian possession ... with heathen poverty.

When we read the apologetics of the second and third centuries, can we altogether avoid the painful impression that what we have here ... is, on the whole, a not very happy, a rather self-righteous, and at any rate a not very perspicacious boasting about all those advantages of Christianity over heathen religion which were in themselves incontestable but not ultimately decisive? In these early self-commendations of Christianity a remarkably small part is played by the fact that grace is the truth of Christianity, that the Christian is justified when he is without God, like Abraham, that he is like the publican in the temple, the prodigal son, wretched Lazarus, the guilty thief crucified with Jesus Christ. Instead, we have the -- admittedly successful -- rivalry of one way of salvation, one wisdom and morality with others." (The Doctrine of the Word of God, Volume 1, Part 2, pp. 332-333. The Revelation of God; Holy Scripture: The Proclamation of the Church)

About the Author: (Excerpted from the Columbia Encyclopedia)

Barth, Karl (bärt), 1886–1968, Swiss Protestant theologian, one of the leading thinkers of 20th-century Protestantism. He helped to found the Confessing Church and his thinking formed the theological framework for the Barmen Declaration. He taught in Germany, where he early opposed the Nazi regime. In 1935 when he refused to take the oath of allegiance to Adolf Hitler, he was retired from his position at the Univ. of Bonn and deported to Switzerland. There he continued to expound his views, known as dialectical theology or theology of the word.

Barth’s primary object was to lead theology back to the principles of the Reformation (called neo-orthodoxy). For Barth, modern theology with its assent to science, immanent philosophy, and general culture and with its stress on feeling, was marked by indifference to the word of God and to the revelation of God in Jesus, which he thought should be the central concern of theology.

In the confrontation between humanity and God, which was Barth’s fundamental concern, the word of God and God’s revelation in Christ are the only means God has for Self-revelation; Barth argued that people must listen in an attitude of awe, trust, and obedience.

Barth’s writings include The Epistle to the Romans (tr. 1933), The Word of God and the Word of Man (tr. 1928), Credo (tr. 1936), and Church Dogmatics (Vol. I-IV, tr. 1936-62).

Further Reading:

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Machen's Bible!

J. Gresham Machen on the Bible:

The Christian man finds in the Bible the very Word of God. Let it not be said that dependence upon a book is a dead or an artificial thing. The Reformation of the sixteenth entury was founded upon the authority of the Bible, yet it set the world aflame. Dependence upon a word of man would be slavish, but dependence upon God's word is life. Dark and gloomy would be the world, if we were left to our own devices and had no blessed Word of God. The Bible, to the Christian is not a burdensome law, but the very Magna Charta of Christian liberty.”

“It is no wonder, then, that liberalism is totally different from Christianity, for the foundation is different. Christianity is founded upon the Bible. It bases upon the Bible both its thinking and its life. Liberalism on the other hand is founded upon the shifting emotions of sinful men.”

Your view of the Bible tells me something significant about where you stand in relation to God. Here's the link to the chapter on the Bible from J. Gresham Machen's classic book Christianity & Liberalism written in 1923.

For those who don't know Dr. Machen, here's the link. In short, he was a bold and brilliant follower of Jesus willing to stand for the absolute Truth contained in the Bible.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Dylan Path!

Bob Dylan is 65 today!

How will you commemorate this path blazing, Social Security eligible, icon-busting singer-songwriter, American idol?

"Celebrate the Tambourine Man's birthday on May 24th with some down-home revelry of your own," advises the website ehow.com. "Bust out your dusty tambourine and make some noise in celebration of one of Mr. Dylan's most famous ditties, 'Mr. Tambourine Man.'"

Bob Dylan hasn't recorded a new album since "Love and Theft" - dropped, ironically, on Sept. 11, 2001. But America's musical poet laureate, born Robert Allen Zimmerman, is as visible today as he's been at any time in his iconic, sometimes reclusive, even born-again, life.

Up here in the North Country, we have a new Bob Dylan "cultural pathway". Approved this week by the Duluth City Council, the 1.8 mile pathway runs from the city's history and arts center known as the Depot, down Michigan Street before turning up to Superior Street and then to London Road. The streets won't be renamed, but additional signs marking the route will be installed above the regular street signs.

Ken Buehler, executive director of the Lake Superior Railroad Museum, located in the Depot, said he likes the idea of the Depot being on a street named after Dylan. "It makes sense that one of your performing arts centers is on a street named for Bob Dylan," he said.

Madonna's old tricks!

In one of those "Are we really surprised?" moments, while singing "Live To Tell" during a recent concert in Los Angeles, Madonna suspended herself from a mirrored cross simulating her crucifixion. This was meant to tick off Christians.

Catholic League president Bill Donohue said in a statement that Madonna should “knock off the Christ-bashing.” Donohue said that while Madonna has misused Christian imagery for years, he thought that her recently declared faith in Kabbalah might inspire some respect for religion. But he said, "I guess you really can't teach an old pop star new tricks."

Of course, had it been that other religion, the one that riots over irreverent cartoons, would Madonna have survived her latest stage stunt? Read about the rock star's dramatic opening night in this Beliefnet article.

Contrary to upsetting evangelical Christians, this stunt may be viewed as another wonderful church growth idea - think of the crowd it would generate at Willow Creek or Oooze or any of a number of MegaChurches.

Asked an Anglican spokesman, "Is Madonna prepared to take on everything else that goes with wearing a crown of thorns?" Duh, dude, she totally already has!

Mega Hank!

Hank Hill goes to a mega church… This is both funny and often very close to home.

A megachurch is a large church, frequently defined as having more than 10,000 worshippers for a typical weekly service.

If you want to research some megachurch stuff, follow the below links:

Evaluating the Megachurch Movementby Charles Martin from Evangelical Ministries of Sylvania

Interview with Gary Bryson, It’s A God Thing: The Rise of the Megachurch on Encounter ABC Local Radio, Sunday 24 April 2005

Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life "Myths of the Modern Mega-Church", Monday, May 23, 2005, Rick Warren, Senior Pastor and Founder, Saddleback Church, Orange County, California and David Brooks, Columnist, The New York Times

Seeker Sensitive, Purpose Driven Churches

Joel Osteen, the Megachurch, and the Mini-Gospel by Justin Taylor

Megachurches, Megabusinesses by Luisa Kroll (Forbes.com)

The Church Growth Movement by Jack Sin

Mega Churches: Postmodern Seeker Sensitivity by Craig W. Booth

CHURCH GROWTH MOVIE Looking to "grow" your church? An animated tutorial.

The Ethnocentricity of The American Church Growth Movement by Michael Horton

John H. Armstrong at Reformation and Revival:
The Modern Megachurch Phenomenon July 18, 2005, Further Analysis ... July 25, 2005 and A Few Final Observations ... August 1, 2005

“Church Growth, Dying Small Churches, and a New Strategy” August 8, 2005 John H. Armstrong

The Purpose Driven Church (a critique) Michael J. Penfold

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Augustine of Hippo!

A little reading from The Confessions of Augustine: "Let me seek you, Lord"

For "everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." But how are they to call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? (Romans 10: 13 & 14)

Let me seek you, Lord, by praying to you and let me pray believing in you; since to us you have been preached. My faith prays to you, Lord this faith which you gave me and with which you inspired one through the Incarnation of your Son and through the ministry of the Preacher. (The Confessions of Augustine, Book I:1)

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Jaroslav's Point-Man!

Dr. Jaroslav Pelikan, Sterling Professor of History Emeritus at Yale and perhaps the finest historian of Christian theology of the twentieth century, died over the weekend of lung cancer (82 yrs). You can read his obituary at the New York Times here.

I was introduced to his superior work in Christian history as an undergraduate in Religious Studies. He became a staple in my library and I used his works extensively in my research for various papers at Princeton Seminary. He was the author of some 40 books.

If you're not familiar with Dr. Pelikan or his writings, then take a look at the profile written by Mark Noll in 1990 republished this week at Christianity Today, as well as Dr. Pelikan's own excellent essay, "The Predicament of the Christian Historian."

In 2004, he was awarded the Kluge Prize for lifetime achievement in the humanities and social sciences, considered by many to be the Nobel Prize for the humanities. The son of a Lutheran pastor and grandson of a Lutheran bishop, Dr. Pelikan converted to Eastern Orthodoxy in 1998.

BTW: The above photo was taken with Dr. Pelikan in 1989. (I used to sport a beard!) He was lecturing at a special Religious Studies event at Florida International University where I was completing my Doctoral degree. While posing together, he thanked me for being his point man during his talk. He went on to explain that it was his tradition to find a receptive onlooker to establish significant eyesight with while speaking. I was Jaroslav’s point-man for the hour!

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Bono & Barth!

What do Karl Barth and Bono have in common? You guessed it! Jesus! What else? Well, you say, they are both messianic types! Yes! Two saviors! One saved Rock and Roll and the other Church Dogmatics!

Also they were both born on the 10th of May. Bono [1960] Paul Hewson a.k.a. Bono) the brilliant musician, singer/songwriter, Jesus follower and humanitarian! Happy 46th birthday to one of Christianity’s favorite secular entertainers! I wish him continued success, good health and much grace.

In Conversation with Michka Assayas (Riverhead Books) Bono says, “My understanding of the Scriptures has been made simple by the person of Christ.”

Exactly 120 years ago today, Karl Barth was born in Basel, Switzerland [1886]. Karl Barth is considered by some the greatest Protestant theologian of the 20th century and possibly the greatest since the Reformation. More than anyone else, Barth inspired and led the renaissance of theology that took place from about 1920 to 1950.

It is said that a reporter once asked Dr. Barth if he could summarize what he had said in his lengthy Church Dogmatics. Dr. Barth thought for a moment and then said: "Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so."

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Bush Fish!

Reuters reports:

U.S. President George W. Bush told a German newspaper his best moment in more than five years in office was catching a big perch in his own lake. "You know, I've experienced many great moments and it's hard to name the best," Mr. Bush told weekly Bild am Sonntag when asked about his high point since becoming president in January 2001.

Here's the President's own words: "I would say the best moment of all was when I caught a 7.5 pound (3.402 kilos) perch in my lake," he told the newspaper in an interview published on Sunday.

What think ye?

Check it out: A fish catching primer for Fisher’s of Men!

And this: A site to track the upcoming Fishers of Men National Tournaments!

And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” (Mark 1.17)

Friday, May 05, 2006

SK birthday!

God creates out of nothing.
Wonderful you say.
Yes, to be sure, but he does what is still more wonderful:
he makes saints out of sinners.” - SK

Søren Aabye Kierkegaard (SK) was born this day in 1813. SK was a profound and prolific Christian writer. His work crosses the boundaries of philosophy, theology, psychology, literary criticism, devotional literature and fiction. SK brought his potent mixture of discourses to bear on the renewing of Christian faith within Christendom.

Having begun my own theological journey in a fundamentalist environment, SK was off limits. As a matter of fact, I managed to stay clear of him until being required to read “On Christendom” while at Princeton Seminary. What a shock! This little book was a powerful critique of organized Christianity and superficial faith. I was convicted! I remember vividly sitting at my study desk, placing my face in my hands and laying my forehead on the desk edge as the Holy Spirit ministered to me. God be merciful to me a sinner was my cry!

SK is often vilified by Fundamentalists as the "father of existentialism", but at least as important are his fervent attempts to revive the Christian faith. His central problematic was how to become a Christian in Christendom. He employed an "inverted Christian dialectic" not to make the word of God easier to digest, but to establish more clearly the absolute distance that separates human beings from God. His point! Human beings are utterly reliant on God's grace for salvation.

For SK Christian faith is essentially a matter of individual subjective passion, which cannot be mediated by human instrumentality. Active faith is paramount because only on this basis does a human being become a true self. Christian dogma, according to SK, embodies paradoxes which are offensive to reason. The central Christian paradox is the assertion that the eternal, infinite, transcendent God simultaneously became incarnated as a temporal, finite, human being named Jesus. There are two possible attitudes either believe it or not. Reason is not an option. The object of saving faith is higher than reason.

Bottom line: Crucial to the miracle of Christian faith is the realization that over against God we always miss the mark. That is, we must grasp that we are always in sin. This is the active condition for dynamic faith freely given by God. God, in Christ, saves sinners!

1 Timothy 1:15-16