Columns

My car was in the shop this week to fix an evolving A/C apocalypse. When the work was finished, a kind mechanic from the place picked me up to take me to my car. On the way, we talked about the things of God, and he asked me how could God send a good Jewish Rabbi to Hell? After all, he said, the Rabbi is only doing what he was brought up to do; he is doing his best to live up to the light he received.

This is a common objection to the Christian message. It deserves a compelling answer. What would you say? You might try something like this:

We live in a day of comfort. Every new product boasts a greater measure of ease than that which preceded it. Our public discourse insists that the highest form of virtue is that we do not make others feel uncomfortable about their beliefs or lifestyles. Then we read the Bible and, in many places, we find it to be extremely uncomfortable. Of course, we all have our "go-to" encouragement passages; and, it's right that love them. These are the cherished Gospel promises and comforts.

Kata Bethlen – A Faith Preserved

            Kata Bethlen (1700-1752) started her autobiography with her most painful memory: her forced marriage, at age 17, to her Roman Catholic half-brother.

Alcuin of York – More Than a Scholar

            In 781, a Saxon monk named Alcuin had an encounter that changed his life and became the catalyst of the dynamic but short-lived Carolingian Renaissance. The man he met was the Frankish King Charles (later known as Charlemagne). As many others him, Charles was struck by Alcuin’s intellect and abilities, and invited him to join a group of scholars at his court.

Christians are frequently reminded to “remember the reason for Christmas,” meaning, of course, that we should turn our attention away from the cultural trappings and to the fact that Jesus was born to Mary in Bethlehem.  But this Christmas, perhaps we should fix our attention a little more closely, not just on the details of Jesus’ birth, but on the miracle of the incarnation.  In so doing, we join a great cloud of Christian witnesses, who have reflected deeply on this glorious mystery.

This week on Theology on the Go, Dr. Jonathan Master is joined by Dr. Liam Goligher, pastor of the historic Tenth Presbyterian Church in downtown Philadelphia, PA. As pastor of Tenth Presbyterian, Dr. Goligher has done much thinking and teaching on the topic of missions, and how Christians are to reach the lost. This installment of Theology on the Go gives a glimpse of some of that teaching as Dr. Goligher chats with Jonathan about the doctrine of missions.

In our last three articles that dealt with the sin-related petitions in the Lord’s Prayer we noted in passing how striking it is that such a large proportion of this prayer is focused on our fallenness and failure. This surely says a great deal about why, in light of Calvin’s famous dictum about truly knowing ourselves as well as God, that genuine self-knowledge plays a huge part in entering more fully into a true knowledge of God.

The triplet of sin-related requests embedded in the Lord’s Prayer ends with the shortest, but in many ways the most potent of them all: ‘Deliver us from evil’. As many commentators point out, there is a measure of ambiguity over whether it should be rendered ‘…from evil’ or ‘…from the evil one’. However, the distinction is somewhat immaterial as evil is inseparably bound up with the one who is its source. The one who in the words of the C.S. Lewis title is none other than, ‘That Hideous Strength’.

Considering what I would preach if I could only preach one sermon is an interesting and probing question, and yet, I think it would be fair to say that many pastors often do preach just one sermon. You know who they are, the pastor whose particular hobby horse always and inevitably arises in any given sermon. I know of one local pastor who, no matter what passage of Scripture he’s working through, seems to always draw out in his sermon his own brand of complementarianism. Or perhaps you know that one pastor where every sermon ends with some thoughts concerning the eschaton.

Contemplating the question, “If you could preach only one sermon, what would it be?” the thought that keeps returning is, “Love God.” 

Perhaps this focus of proclamation comes to mind because our church’s men’s study is going through Jonathan Edwards’ Charity and Its Fruits based on 1 Corinthians 13.  Profound indeed it is that whatever we endeavor for God—however much according to His commands in the littlest jots and tittles—profits us absolutely nothing before the Lord without His love as its source and sum. 

Word, Sacrament, and Discipline

You’ve moved to a new area, and are looking for a church. What are the main things you should consider in your search? As a visitor, what are the visible signs that indicate you’re in a true church?

What does it mean to be a reader? What’s actually happening when someone reads a text? Ever since the rise of post-modernism these kinds of questions have been in vogue. And though many of the popular answers today are new, the questions themselves are not. In fact, he Bible itself as well as many of its early readers, wrestled well with what it means to read, giving us a definition to a biblical art of reading. I want to explore briefly five components to what it means to read the Bible.

"If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me" (Luke 9:23). This is a painful process, and at times can discourage even mature Christians. The sins of self-intrest reach deep into the heart, and they are difficult to root out.