Monthly Archives: March 2010


Lent: A Time for Conversion and Preparation

PaulRubens From the beginning it seems that Lent was a time for penitence. This word penitence troubles some evangelicals because they are reminded of the errors and bad teaching of the sixteenth century Catholic opponents of the Reformers. But the word penitence comes from the Latin word paenitentia, which referred to an attitude of repentance. Repentance, from the Greek word metanoia in the New Testament, meant to change one’s mind and thus the direction of one’s life. Very early in the development of dogma the practice of penitence did not have the idea of something that we could do to earn our salvation by doing works of penance. Modern Catholicism does not teach penance in this way either, even though it still clearly retains the idea that penance is a sacrament, known as the sacrament of reconciliation.

Some years ago I heard my friend Scott Hahn give two lectures in a Saturday seminar in a local Catholic parish in the

Lent and the Development of the Catechumenate

hands-water I sometimes am drawn into discussion about immediate baptism. Based on several accounts we have in the New Testament some Christians believe that as soon as a person professes faith in Jesus Christ they should be immediately baptized. Some traditions even insist that this be done so that a person who has believed will be sealed with the baptismal water and truly saved lest they die without baptism and perish. I still recall a dialogue with some evangelicals, in my childhood, who insisted that this had to be true since they had been taught what amounted to “baptismal regeneration.” Without water baptism a convert was in peril.

A story went around when I was a boy about a man who walked forward in such a church one Sunday to accept Jesus as his Savior. There had been an unusual freeze in that part of Texas and the baptismal pool had no water. He was told he would be baptized the next Sunday. That afternoon he


lent1236708378 The season of Lent ends during Holy Week. The word lent comes from Middle English and means “springtime.” In the church this period is the forty-day time before Easter, or a period of preparation to celebrate Easter. It ends with the Easter Vigil. Early in the development of this ancient tradition fasting became a part of Lent. This may have originated in Egypt as a remembrance of Jesus’ forty-day fast in the wilderness. By the middle of the fourth century a forty-day fast began the sixth Sunday before Easter in Rome. By the sixth century the days before the sixth Sunday were added thus Lent begins on the Wednesday before the sixth Sunday. The forty days are calculated as forty by adding up the days through Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday, without the Sundays! (Do the math, it works.) The rite of imposing ashes did not begin until the tenth century, thus the day was called Ash Wednesday. The ashes are imposed

Holy Week

Traditionally Holy Week is the week before Easter Sunday. It is also called the “Great Week” in the Eastern Churches. It includes the last days of Lent and the first days of what is commonly called the Easter Triduum. (The Triduum comes from the Latin for the “three-day period” which is the three-day celebration of the most solemn mysteries of our Christian faith: Jesus’ passion, death, burial and resurrection.)

Holy Week 1 From at least the second century, if not earlier, this has been a time in which the church gave itself to prayer and fasting in preparation for the Easter Vigil, which is the final part of the week and spills over into the celebration of Sunday. Holy Week begins with Passion Sunday, or Palm Sunday as many of you know it. Historically it includes a reading of the story of Jesus’ arrest, trial, suffering, death and burial. It has been called Palm Sunday because of the procession  with

Storm: A Deeply Probing Film

home_box_image3 Storm, the winner of the Amnesty International Film Prize at the Berlin International Film Festival in 2009, is one of the finest independent foreign films I have seen in some time. It is superb for narrative story-telling which, to me, is the key to a truly great film.

Hannah Maynard (Kerry Fox) is a prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal in the Hague. She is leading a trial against a former commander of the Yugoslavian National Army who is accused of the deportation and killing of scores of Bosnian-Muslims during the war there in the 1990s. Hannah takes her key witness back to the scene of the crimes and he commits suicide, thus causing her case to seem futile. But Hannah, who is not the real hero in the film, will not give up. She goes to the burial site of her witness in Sarajevo and there meets his sister Mira, who has been living in Germany with her husband and

By |March 27th, 2010|Categories: Film|

Christians and the New World Order

nwo_dvd_web_border Conspiracy theories abound in America. Though the mainstream media pays little or no attention to these theories, or to the figures who personally promote them, the theories are there and the people who promote them are armed and very aggressive. Most of these theorists proclaim to be Christians, a claim that is dubious in almost every serious sense of the name Christian. These same theories even exist in Great Britain and Canada according to the documentary film, New World Order.

According to these alarmists the Holocaust never happened, or at least it is vastly over-rated by serious historians. 9/11 was “an inside job” staged by a powerful group of global leaders who want to take America over and control the people. And the Twin Towers were brought down by explosives placed there by conspirators, not by the planes that were flown into the buildings by the terrorists. (I wondered how they explain the attack on the Pentagon? The film

Confessing the Faith Faithfully

It should be apparent, if you have read my previous three posts, that confessing the faith is important business. It is not to be taken lightly by the individual or the church. Jaroslav Pelikan, in his magnum opus five volume work, The Christian Tradition, says in volume one that Christian doctrine is "what the church of Jesus Christ believes, teaches and confesses on the basis of the word of God." He says in a later book (Credo, 53), that the proper emphasis should be seen in the subtitle of his work: "A history of the development of doctrine." The real point he wants to make is that the Christian faith must be taught, that is, passed on by and through faithful confessing. Thus Pelikan's emphasis in his last great work on doctrine was on "confessing the faith" (Credo, 53).

The relationship between believing and confessing is both close and complex. Yale theologian Volf Miroslav Volf (photo at right) puts this well: "Without personal identification with

The Imperative of Creed and Confession

With only small variations the ancient formulas of the seven ecumenical councils of the undivided church, in both the East and the West, agreed that real, saving faith was to begin with the creed of faith. The creed was not an end in itself, as if saying words made one a true Christian, but the church universally believed that the teaching of the church was settled and should be accepted and revered.

Pelikan-jaroslav Some readers might say, "Well, the Reformation surely changed all of this." If you think so then you are quite wrong. The Protestant confessions of faith, at least during the early stages of the Reformation era, are even stronger on this matter than the formularies of Roman Catholicism from that same period (Pelikan, Credo, 41).

Almost every known confession of the first and second generation of the Reformation begins with "We confess" or We affirm and avow." Words like "We confess and acknowledge" and "the confession of our faith"

What Place Does the Creed Have in Our Salvation?

Does confessing the Christian faith and saying openly that you believe the creed make you a Christian? The simple answer, of course, is no. But I urge you to think about this question differently. The question is not: "How much do I have to understand and believe to be saved?" The question must be framed by a text like Romans 10:9-10 it seems to me. Here the apostle makes it abundantly plain that what you believe and confess is a matter of being "justified" and "saved." As one popular comic puts it, "Not too fast my friend, not too fast." Maybe creeds and confessions are somehow vital to living faith.

Augustine-bottic The famous Augustine of Hippo, in quoting from a variety of Western creeds in various forms, opens one of his earliest written works, On Faith and the Creed, with the assertion that "we cannot secure our salvation unless . . . we make our own profession of the faith that we carry in our

By |March 23rd, 2010|Categories: Uncategorized|

The Importance of Creeds and Confessions to the Church

Credo Creeds and confessions of faith have their origin in the earliest expressions of the Christian faith. They are not foreign to the Bible, as some fundamentalists and evangelicals have been prone to suggest. Their origin, said the late Jaroslav Pelikan was "in a twofold Christian imperative, to believe and to confess what one believes" (Credo, 35). The term creed comes from the first idea, what I believe, what we believe, is creed. All Christians, even the most anti-creedal ones, have a creed, written or not. The idea of a confession of faith, or of confessing the faith, comes from confessing what one believes. The apostle said, "I believed, so I spoke." We have the same faith so we believe and confess. The apostles, in fact, quotes the Psalmist to explain to the Corinthian church "we too believe, and so we speak" (2 Cor. 4:13; cf. Psalm 116:10).

The English word creed is derived from the Latin verb credo, which is


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