Category Archives: Religion

R.I.P. Johnny Hart

Johnny Hart, one of the great cartoonists of our time–creator of “The Wizard of Id” and “B.C.” as well as an in-your-face Christian witness–died today at his home at Endicott, NY. He was 76 years old.

I think he was probably pleased to go home on Easter Day.

“Hey! Heaven got cartoonists!”

Letter from Jerusalem

Good Friday is a time for meditations. Here’s one of mine.

I imagine one of the Lord’s disciples, getting up early one morning, after the triumphal entry, and writing a letter home from Jerusalem.

Dear Mom and Dad,

Just a note to wish you a happy Passover and to tell you what’s been going on here.

It’s been just incredible.

I didn’t know what to expect when we came to Jerusalem, but I never expected we’d be rock stars! All the people turned out in the streets to cheer the Rabbi. They waved tree branches. They laid their robes down in the street for his donkey to walk over. The children were dancing and singing. It was a party! It was incredible!

I always knew the Kingdom was coming, but I’d never really expected to see it, I guess. Everybody’s talking about the Rabbi. We’ve got the whole city on our side. It’s going to happen! Soon the Rabbi will sit on the throne. He’ll drive the Romans out. Israel will be a mighty kingdom again.

And your son will be a governor, at least.

That little farm you’ve always wanted? I’ll see that you get it. Only it’ll be a big farm. And when you come to visit me in my palace, I’ll send you home with expensive gifts.

Pretty soon now. Any day, it’s going to happen. Nothing can stop us now. We’ve got the momentum.

Ah. There goes the Rabbi. He seems to be headed for the temple.

I wonder why He’s carrying a whip?

God’s ways are not our ways. That’s one of the lessons of Good Friday. But let us remember that it’s also a lesson of Easter.

Made Like Us in Every Respect

“Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, [Jesus] himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” (Hebrews 2:14-18 ESV)

New Music in the Familiar

Philosopher William Alston on why he believes the claims of Jesus Christ:

I’m a Christian not because I have been convinced by some impressive arguments: arguments from natural theology for the existence of God, historical arguments concerning the authenticity of the Scriptures or the reliability of the Apostles, or whatever. My coming back was less like seeing that certain premises implied a conclusion than it was like coming to hear some things in music that I hadn’t heard before, or having my eyes opened to the significance of things that are going on around me.

Why America Hates New York City

They hate it for “cheap art-world stunts,” suggests James Panero. Clicking that link will show you an article on a chocolate sculpture representing Jesus on a cross. Sure it’s blasphemous, even if you think it’s defensible under our freedom rights, but James asks the right question, “Why have I yet to see a custard Mohammed?”

I heard a variant of that question from a Christian apologist who debated the Rational Response Squad for a few hours. They are group that encouraged people to deny the Holy Spirit on tape so that they were guaranteed eternal damnation according to their misuse of Scripture. The apologist asked if they respected Allah at all, which of course they did not, and why they didn’t encourage people to rant against him or Mohammed. They said they didn’t want to suffer the backlash. “So you are attacking Christians because we’re kinder?” he replied.

Sure they are. It was Jesus’ divine kindness, his focus on the kingdom not of this earth, that turned the crowd who shouted, “Hosanna,” for him on Sunday to shouting “Crucify him,” on Friday. So what do we do with this as Christians? Do we sigh and return to our petty concerns, our consumer needs, our entertainments? Or do we fight back?

“For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete” (2 Corinthians 10 :3-6 ESV).

There May Be a Lutheran Near You

I see that Lars has noticed this discussion, but I’ll spare him from linking to it. Luther at the Movies notes, “There are as many Lutherans in the United States today as there are Swedes in Sweden—9,000,000;” so why aren’t they more visible in the public square? Rev. McCain of Cyberbrethren says:

The very things that Lutheranism have that make it stand out in the crowded “marketplace” of American denominationalism are the very things that so many non-Lutherans find attractive, while cradle Lutherans sometimes seem determined to minimize or ignore them! What are we so embarassed about? The incessant self-loathing and self-depricating attitudes we display toward the treasure of doctrine and practice that is historic, Biblical and faithful Lutheranism is truly distressing to observe.

Dr. Veith explains that Lutherans still have an immigrant mindset, “grateful for this country, but they really didn’t think of it as ‘theirs’ in the same sense that those who were here before them could.”

Honestly, this discussion makes me curious about Lutheran distinctives. I need to look them up. Should I go somewhere other than the Book of Concord?

It is all about us, isn’t it?

Our postmodern world is pulling each individual into a vacuum of self-centeredness, whispering, ‘It’s all about you.’ It’s all about your own pleasure, peace, prosperity, and comfort. It’s all about what you think. It’s all about your own self-actualization, your individual pursuit. It reminds me of the first lie that mankind heard in the garden: ‘You will be like God!’ It is all about us, isn’t it? –Del Tacket,

Quoted on Your Writers

I remember a writer, whom I didn’t know then and now can’t remember, saying his biggest hurtle in telling a good story was taking himself out of focus. He wasn’t meant to be the main character of every story.

Smoking or non-smoking?

In my ongoing effort to demonstrate my spiritual superiority and make most of you feel guilty, I’m going to talk about my morning devotional.

(I was pretty guilty about it myself, by the way, until recently. I finally found a way to make my devotions fairly regular. I spend fifteen minutes with the Bible during my first coffee break each day at work. This isn’t a live option for lots of people, I understand, but since I’m the boss, and I can’t leave the office during that time period anyway, it works for me.)

I was in 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 this morning. I was using the ESV at work, but I don’t have a copy here at home, so I’ll transcribe verses 11-15 from the NIV:

For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through flames.

Occasionally I’ve heard the question asked, “Will Christians go through the Last Judgment?” It seems to me the answer is right here. Christians will be judged, but only in terms of rewards, not punishment.

Paul imagines—or perhaps he once observed—a man going through the ruins of his house after it has burned down. The man sifts through the ashes, recognizing charred scraps of clothing or sticks of furniture, ruined forever.

But in the cinders he touches something heavy and solid. He lifts it up. It’s his savings—a bag of coins. The bag itself has burned up, but the money comes up all together in a lump, because it’s gold and silver. It’s melted together, but it’s all there, and just as valuable as it was before the fire. Because gold and silver are invulnerable to flames.

That’s how it will be at the Last Judgment, Paul is saying. It won’t be like the Muslim Last Judgment. Muslims believe that everyone—Muslim and infidel—will stand before the same court. There will be a balance scale there. On one side of the balance, all the person’s good deeds will be placed. On the other side all his sins will go. If the good is heavier than the bad, the person goes to Paradise. If the evil weighs more, he goes to Hell. Thus no Muslim is ever entirely sure of salvation (unless he’s a martyr, of course).

I suspect a lot of people who think they’re Christians are actually Muslims, at least in this doctrine.

But Paul says that as long as you stand on the Foundation—that is, Jesus Christ—you can’t be condemned in the Judgment. Your deeds, though—all the stuff you bring with you from your life—your achievements and piety—all that will go through the fire. When the fire has had its way, you’ll see (and I’ll see) how much of that was gold, how much was kindling.

A comforting thought, and a troubling one, all at once.

I should practice sleeping out of doors, I think.

Cryptic post

A lot of people have a lot invested in the belief that Jesus Christ was merely a great human teacher, about whom fantastic but fictitious tales were spread after his death. This view permits such people to consider themselves “Christians” in the sense of being followers of “the real Jesus” (about whom, according to this theory, we really can say nothing for sure, but they’re sure they know what He truly meant anyway, and—what do you know? It’s precisely what they already think!). Most importantly it avoids the whole scandal of the Cross thing, which is so tacky.

And that, in short, is what I think of James Cameron and his documentary on Jesus’ tomb. I move right past discussion of his claims and settle on an ad hominem attack.

But if you want a discussion of Cameron’s arguments, I recommend to you this post at Dennis Ingolfsland’s Recliner Commentaries blog, a blog that deserves to be better known than it is.

For a more sinister, humorous take I liked what Dirty Harry wrote yesterday at Libertas blog.

Out of Egypt on the Lutheran Confession

Presbyterian blogger Donovan praises some Lutheran doctrines and criticizes others. He writes, “. . . though I love the first part of the section on Election (and think that the best Calvinist practice is in line with its cautions), find the second part (which teaches the doctrine of resistable grace) to be in conflict with the FoC’s own teaching earlier on, in the section on Free Will. And not in a paradoxical sort of way either, just an out-and-out contradictory sort of way.”

You don’t have to thank me for bringing this to your attention. I blog because I care.

Man, Teach Not The Lord’s People

“10 reasons why men shouldn’t be pastors”

6. Men are too emotional to be priests or pastors. This is easily demonstrated by their conduct at football games and watching basketball tournaments.

5. Some men are handsome; they will distract women worshipers.

Here’s a bit o’ humor passed from blog to blog which could be a conversation igniter. I’ve gotten my chuckles out of it, and I link to it here despite my fear that it could be fodder for a feminist diatribe on women in church leadership. I don’t want to support that. I’m one of those failed intellectuals who believes the Bible grants church and family authority to men, not to men and women equally. Both genders are equally valuable in all roles of life, but men have the responsibility to lead their families and churches after the example of Christ.

Can’t Imagine It’s Enforced

Blasphemy in Massachusetts: Chapter 272, Section 36. “Whoever wilfully blasphemes the holy name of God by denying, cursing,” etc.

And if you raise a ruckus in church, section 38 will send you jail too, so watch it.

After posting this yesterday, I asked myself if anyone would want this kind of thing to be enforced. We won’t improve our neighbor’s character by forcing them to keep select vices, like blasphemy, to themselves. Disrupting a worship service is another matter, which I don’t think automatically falls under free speech protections. It is proper for a society to protect places from unruly citizens, so if it were a crime to heckle a minister in my state, I wouldn’t mind. Not that I would press charges on it either.

But common vulgarity or blasphemy as is restricted in Section 36 above shouldn’t be unlawful. Neither should stating that homosexuality is perversion.