Monthly Archives: October 2012

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Celebrating the Protestant Reformation

The first disciples of Christ were only later called Christians. Just so with those who were influenced by Martin Luther, John Calvin and Ulrich Zwingli. Only later were they called Protestants. The exact origin of the term protestant is unsure. It may come either from French protestant or German Protestant. What is certain is that both the French and German use of this word was derived from the Latin: protestantem. This Latin word literally meant “one who publicly declares/protests.”  I believe the best way to celebrate the Protestant Reformation (October is the “unofficial birthday”) is to regain this idea of “one who declares.” Let me explain.

Over time the term Protestant was eventually used to describe all groups protesting Roman Catholicism. Since that time, the term Protestant has been used in many different senses, often as a general term merely to signify non-Catholics who belong to neither of the Churches of Catholic tradition or the churches of the Christian East (Orthodoxy). This use still has a place, at least for historical reasons, but as the world is getting “smaller and smaller” these words

The Creed: An Outline of "The Faith" We Believe

The two passages I mentioned in the Book of Acts yesterday were originally addressed to the Jews. They plainly take for granted the faith of the Old Testament and of Judaism. In addition to this obvious assumption, I believe that the following points summarize the core of apostolic faith and preaching:

1. There is one God, the creator and ruler of the world, who chose Israel to be his people and the agent of his saving purpose toward all mankind.

2. There is one Lord Jesus, the Christ (Messiah), the Son and Word of God, through whom all things were created, who was made man for our salvation, and dwelt among us.

  1. In him (Jesus Christ) God fulfilled his promises made by the prophets, for in the mighty words and works of his ministry, the kingdom of God was present and made manifest.
  2. According to the plan and foreknowledge of God, Jesus died to redeem us from sin and death, that we might receive salvation and eternal life.
  3. He was raised from the dead on the third day by the power
By |October 30th, 2012|Categories: Creeds, The Church|

Why "The Faith" Matters

The faith of the the Apostles is enshrined in the Gospels, outlined in their preaching in the Book of Acts and expounded and taught in their Epistles. Though there are different ways in which this faith is expressed, it is one and the same faith in all three accounts. This faith is common to the writings because they were written by apostles or close companions of the apostles.

Can We Discover “The Faith” in the New Testament Itself?

I believe you can discover a rather simple and straightforward outline of the apostolic faith by studying the preaching of Peter in Acts 2. Most exegetes of this text agree that this was not the “whole” sermon of Peter at Pentecost but rather an outline. Consider further the words we read in Acts 2:14–36:

14 Peter stood with the eleven apostles and spoke in a loud and clear voice to the crowd:

Friends and everyone else living in Jerusalem, listen carefully to what I have to say! 15 You are wrong to think that these people are drunk. After all, it is only nine o’clock in the morning. 16 But this is what God had

By |October 29th, 2012|Categories: Creeds, Faith|

College Football Fever Has Hit My Home Again

With the resurgence of football at Notre Dame this season Irish fans are excited. I live in the center of Notre Dame hype and support in Chicago. These fans have every right to be thrilled with their team’s success and the obvious upgrade of their once floundering football program. I believe Notre Dame is great for tradition, even though in the more recent past they were often over-rated. People tend to love them or hate them but few real fans ignore them. Tonight they face a true test when they play Oklahoma in Norman, a tough road game if there ever was one. I expect the Irish to lose this evening but their defense is good enough to keep them in this game and give them a shot at a close win in the fourth quarter. If they win then they will then have a decent shot of playing for a national championship in January. (They still have to play and beat USC as well.) But true fans know better than to plan their schedule around

By |October 27th, 2012|Categories: College Football|

Social Media and the Future

A new book by filmmaker and journalist Rory O’Connor–Friends, Followers and the Future: How Social Media are Changing Politics, Threatening Big Brands, and Killing Traditional Media (San Francisco: City Lights Books, 2012)–has helped me to better understand the impact of digital information and social networking as well as any book I’ve read in 2012. It is, to my thinking, an important book. It is current in its analysis. (This means that within a few years most of what is said will be completely outdated!) O’Connor’s thesis is simple: “There’s a revolution going on, as ever-accelerating developments in Internet technology change nearly every aspect of how we live, work, play, do business, and engage in politics” (cover text). I would add, for good measure, that these changes clearly impact faith, and sharing our faith publicly, whether we like it or not. As much as Gutenberg’s press changed the Christian mission in the sixteenth century so now the Internet, and the more recent rise of social media with it, are impacting the way people experience faith and understand

By |October 26th, 2012|Categories: Social Networking, Uncategorized|

Facing Trials in Our Flesh: The Ordeal of Christian Suffering

A friend, who is also a member of my local church, has recently undergone a great blow to her body and soul. This sister in Christ has been diagnosed with a very difficult cancer that is extremely rare and very hard to treat. She is a young woman with a desire to minister and presently is in seminary study for ministry. Our church has been praying for her from the first news we received of her ordeal. This week she went into a Chicago hospital to begin very intense treatments. We were encouraged again last weekend to pray for her and also to write her. I have found it hard to know what to write but finally sent an email today. In my own halting way I sent the following letter:
Dear ––––
From the first moment that I learned of your medical crisis I was deeply moved to pray for you. I have only seen you once, sitting to my left side several sections of the church sanctuary removed from where I was seated, on a “rare” Sunday when I was in church (arriving late as I

By |October 25th, 2012|Categories: Divine Providence, Patristics, Personal|

The Church's Mission: Faithful Presence and Extending God's Grace to Outsiders

One of my Top Ten books, at least over the last five years, is James Davison Hunter’s masterful social and theological critique: To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World (Oxford, 2010). Jonathan Merritt begins his next to last chapter in A Faith of Our Own by quoting the central thesis of Hunter’s book: “If Christians cannot extend grace through faithful presence within the body of believers, they will not be able to extend grace to those outside” (155).

A growing number of millennials (20s and 30s) are no longer shopping for the right pastor, music or church program like bargain hunters in pursuit of the best sale ever” (155). Rather, they are questioning whether or not the church has overlooked its true mission and grown too devoted to “its own self-survival” (155).

Merritt writes passionately about the way his own father, once a leader in the kind of church that Merritt grew weary of, planted a new congregation whose mission was not to attract crowds but to faithfully be present with Christ and each other. He says the most

Why Do Millennial Christians Read the Bible So Differently Than My Generation?

As I read Jonathan Merritt’s A Faith of Our Own I asked, “Why do younger Christians read the Bible so differently from my generation?” Jonathan Merritt correctly believes that they have “reflected on the Bible” and take it very seriously. This seems very odd to most older evangelical leaders in my generation. Merritt writes that these younger Christians “approach the Bible with fresh eyes, as each generation must” (129).

When Christians like me, from a modernist generational background, read the Bible we are often influenced by rationalist methods and approaches. Like Merritt, I too grew up on this method, indeed I taught it for decades. If you wanted to know what God says you simply study the Bible and find the answer and there it is, the case is closed. This offered so much certitude and closed all new inquiry, to a greater or lesser extent.

Jonathan Merritt concludes:

But rising generations–perhaps as a result of the influence of postmodernism–are falling in love with the Bible’s overarching narrative. That’s why so many people today talk about ‘the story of God’ or the Bible’s ‘grand narrative.’ Not that

What Is Faith?

Essential to all true Christianity is an understanding of the word faith. We use the word all the time but rarely do we stop to consider, “What is faith?” The dictionary will tell you that faith is “strong belief or trust in someone or something” but that does not do much to help you as a Christian. When the word faith is used in a religious context the dictionary adds that faith is the “belief in the existence of God (or) strong religious feelings or beliefs.” The problem with this kind of definition is that the New Testament never uses the word translated faith in your English Bible in this way. The fact is that “faith” has several meanings in the New Testament.

Trust in a Person

In its most basic and primary way faith is trust in a person. We are all familiar with this kind of usage in everyday relationships. You trust your parents, your spouse, your best friend. This is a kind of faith. When I go to O’Hare Airport to fly out of Chicago I have faith in my pilot and his plane. When

By |October 22nd, 2012|Categories: Biblical Theology, Faith, Spirituality|

Millennial Evangelicals and Homosexuals: A New Way?

One of my favorite novels is Wendell Berry’s book, Jayber Crow. The story of this Kentucky barber moves me deeply every time I read it. I was reminded of old Jayber when I read Jonathan Merritt’s fine book, A Faith of Our Own. He too must love Jayber because he quotes him when he says, “I wasn’t just asking questions; I was being changed by them” (99). If you’ve ever struggled with your faith, I mean really and honestly struggled, then you understand how questions change you. Something you thought unlikely, or out of the blue, happens and you are brought low and feel like a little child. These “faith moments” transform you through the question they pose. I’ve had a number of these moments but some of the more powerful ones came in India in the 1980s. I knew I would never be the same person because of what I saw and experienced. Life could not go back to the old comfortable set of solutions I had so readily accepted.

Merritt describes a moment in his life where he faced the same kind of questions and

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