Missionary work has a bad name within the sociological community, especially when associated with European colonization.
However, Christianity Today has published an article showing that a history of evangelistic Protestant missionaries is overwhelmingly associated with democracy and other positive social outcomes — Continue reading
The Romans saw the gods as beings to be manipulated into providing blessings.
The gods themselves cared little, if at all, about the people. Indeed, the stories about the gods suggested that that gods might rape and commit murder at will. The gods were in no sense “good.” But they had great power.
The gods’ influence on humans was called numen. The gods had a need for sacrifice — a pinch of incense or the blood of a bull — and providing sacrifices to the gods would be rewarded with numen. You can think if numen as a finite pool of goodwill or beneficence toward humans. As one author explains – Continue reading
This brings us to the Nicene Creed — believe it or not.
The fact that Jesus is the Messiah is the core of Paul’s gospel. And yet the modern Churches of Christ don’t teach this, not really.
We ask our converts to recite “Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God,” but how many of our converts could tell us the meaning of “Christ”? Most, I suspect, would say that it means he’s divine, a part of the Godhead. We emphasize “Son of the Living God” purely in the sense of the Nicene Creed. Our theology is Fourth Century. Continue reading
How did we get in this fix? What causes us to think that there is but one “right” way and that all others damn — even when it comes to how to take communion? Indeed, why especially communion?
Well, part of the answer comes from a strange bit of human philosophy that helped define the Church of Christ hermeneutic: positive law.
“Positive law” is a law that prohibits something not intrinsically wrong. A “moral law” is based on fundamental morality. In civil law — the law of governments — we would say that the prohibition of murder is a matter of moral law, because murder is wrong even if the government doesn’t choose to punish it. However, the law setting a minimum wage is positive law, because general principles of morality don’t declare wages below $7.25 an hour immoral — although there certainly is a point at which wages are immorally low — which may be higher or lower than the federal minimum wage. Continue reading
Reader Raymond Gonzalez asked in a comment,
I have a question to those who advocate having a “larger meal” between the eating of the bread in memory and drinking of the cup in memory of our Lord. Are we in SIN if we just eat the bread and drink the cup in memory of Jesus WITHOUT the common meal in between? I ask this question because some are condemning churches that continue in the traditional manner.
First, a little background. I’ve often pointed out that the early church did not take the Lord’s Supper as a symbolic meal with crackers and juice. It was in fact typically taken as part of a full meal, called the “love feast” or agapē. We’ve covered this many times before. Continue reading
Mood, the Sixth
So what is the correct posture to listen to someone speak about Jesus? What is the correct posture for congregational singing? What is the right posture for eating a meal with Christian brothers and sisters?
Perhaps we should lie on couches to take the Lord’s Supper. Jesus and the apostles did.
Perhaps we should climb into a tree to hear about Jesus. Zacchaeus did.
Maybe we should require our preachers to preach standing in a boat or on top of a mountain, as Jesus did.
Maybe we should move the pews further apart so we have room to prostrate ourselves before God. Maybe we should even leave a dancefloor, to properly celebrate the return of God to his people and the coming of the Kingdom and the good news of the Kingdom of heaven.
These ideas sound absurd, even terrifying to some, because we have in the Churches of Christ a clash with the ancient Near East culture, in which feelings are expressed physically. The Eastern people described in the Bible dance, clap, shout, sing, bow, prostrate themselves, and otherwise make their feelings a whole-body experience. They celebrate with everything they have. Continue reading
Mood, the Fourth
The normal posture of worship in the ancient Near East was prostration — as we can see in such passages as –
(Gen 19:1 ESV) The two angels came to Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he rose to meet them and bowed himself with his face to the earth
(Isa 49:7 ESV) Thus says the LORD, the Redeemer of Israel and his Holy One, to one deeply despised, abhorred by the nation, the servant of rulers: “Kings shall see and arise; princes, and they shall prostrate themselves; because of the LORD, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.”
(Psa 5:7 ESV) But I, through the abundance of your steadfast love, will enter your house. I will bow down toward your holy temple in the fear of you.
Does that make bowing mandatory? Well, if we take Paul in 1 Timothy 2 seriously, it’s really hard to lift holy hands toward God while lying prostrate (face to the ground, as the Muslims do in the mosques today). I bet you never, ever thought about that one, did you? Continue reading
Mood, the Second
Let’s start over.
Rule 1: All football metaphors for worship are bad. I live in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, home of the Alabama Crimson Tide. Football is our culture. It’s not part of our culture; it is our culture.
And no football season would be complete without a sermon or communion meditation on how we ought to be just as excited and emotionally expressive at church as we are at a football game.
The problem with the argument is that the fans at a football game are just that: fans. They aren’t players. And comparing church attendance to being a football fan is a very, very unhealthy metaphor. We should see ourselves as on the field playing, not in the stands cheering. We don’t go to church to cheer on the players. We are the players. Continue reading
I just spent the last half hour perusing NASA’s database of outerspace pictures. And I find myself on my knees.
Here are two locations to begin. If you find others, please share.
When I was a kid, around the fourth grade, I had my mother awaken me early and let me skip school to watch John Glenn’s mission — three orbits followed by a splashdown.
I remember Apollo XIII (and loved the movie).
There’s just something about outer space that has held a special fascination for me since my earliest years. I think it’s getting to glimpse another part of God’s self-revelation. Yep — it’s getting to see God.
The picture isn’t, of course, the literal hand of God. But you can see God there just as you can see Rembrandt in his paintings and Frank Lloyd Wright in his buildings. The art reveals the artist.
I was hoping, as a fourth grader, not to be too old to go to the moon. It turned out that I was too young. I’d love to go, but until we have inter-planetary cruise lines, looking at someone else’s pictures is a pretty good substitute.