Should Ecclesiastes Be in the Biblical Canon?

iuMy question will likely startle some. It seems obvious to others. Count me among the latter group. I have read the book many, many times but it has never seemed clearly apparent to me that it belongs, even among the books that we call the “wisdom literature.”

I recently read Ecclesiastes again, this time in The Message. Same question: Why is it here? How does it belong?

The writer undertakes an investigation of experience at all levels. He asks questions about creation, justice, the wise versus the foolish, and the just versus the unjust. He insists that though God is sovereign over all things we cannot know exactly what God is doing or why he is doing it. What then is our proper human response? To take what we get now and use it as best we can. (Here is the observation that I wish I had learned much sooner! I tried to connect the dots of providence in my life overmuch and quite often I did so way too simplistically.)

So when various theologians and preachers tell you

The Life and Last Days of a Saint: Dr. Ben Campbell Johnson

A Swedish House Church Movement of Revival

Pietism produced many expressions and forms. In the end, Pietism was a rival/renewal movement in the centuries following the Reformed and Lutheran Reformations of the sixteenth century. I personally believe the post-Reformation produced a new type of scholasticism that help to reduce the flame of reformation to a flicker. Pietism is quite often seen by modern Reformed and Lutheran confessional adherents as a bad development. If you believe in church renewal and the work of the Spirit you should rethink this idea.


Was Pietism an Expression of an Early Pentecostal Movement?

The Assemblies of God maintains an official heritage center called the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center (FPHC) in Springfield, Missouri. Dr. Darrin Rodgers is the director of the Flower Center. In this video he addresses the important question of the relationship of the Pentecostal renewal in the last century with the movement of Pietism in the post-Reformation era. It strikes me that honest historical research, which is not built on anti-Pentecostalism, cannot help but draw the conclusions that Dr. Rodgers makes in this helpful video.

Does What We Sing Matter to the Faith of the Church?

Since the 1970s we have had a raging debate about singing and music in the church. This debate has often come down to “traditional” music, or (old) hymns, versus “modern,” or popular music. The real truth is that the great influence on church music has been a combination of the charismatic influence, much of which is good in directing our hearts to God in personal praise, and the popular songs of television and pop-culture. This “performance” music is not good, at least in my view. Why?

People do not participate in “praying twice” (St. Augustine) as much as they watch and observe and see a professional production of varying quality. On contrast, pietism went right to the heart of people when they sang their faith. What happens if we cease to express our communion in the common faith in deep and thoughtful ways?

Martin Marty on the Roots of Pietism

The famous church historian Martin Marty is part of a new series on pietism. This short clip is well worth watching. Marty “nails it” when it comes to what was lacking in the early Lutheran Reformation and the doctrinal emphasis that followed.


The Signs of Love Should Not Be Obscured

The world roils in bad news and the story of immense tragedies. These painful realities are quite real. But the great danger we Christians face in 2016 is to focus our attention on this “bad news.”

1a77db114580488fb177b512c0a7a377In his final public utterance of 2015, Pope Francis on Thursday, December 31, insisted that the horrors of the past year are often “weighed down by private interests, by an insatiable thirst for power, and by gratuitous violence.” But Francis stressed that the reality of true goodness should not be lost in 2016. Indeed, I believe this true goodness should be stressed, certainly not in a pollyannaish way, but in a distinctly Christian way. Christ has overcome evil and his peace has changed the world. During these twelve days of Christmas let us remember that the evil of sin remains, but only for the time being. (Sin too will finally be put down completely on the “Last Day!”) This is why we should not entertain false notions about world peace.

Pope Francis added, “How many great gestures of goodness, of love

A Common Struggle – An Uncommonly Fine Book

51-pONHfBCL._AA160_Patrick J. Kennedy, the former congressman and youngest child of Senator Ted Kennedy, recently appeared in an interview on the award-winning news broadcast, “CBS 60 Minutes.” The interview that Kennedy gave so intrigued me that I decided to read his new best-selling book, A Common Struggle: A Personal Journey Through the Past and Future of Illness and Addiction (New York: Blue Rider Press: Penguin, 423 pages). 

A Common Struggle, co-authored with Stephen Fried, details Kennedy’s personal and political battle with mental illness and addiction, exploring mental health history in the U.S. alongside his own private struggle. Kennedy, a former Rhode Island congressman, publicly disclosed his addiction to prescription painkillers in 2006 after he crashed his car into a Capitol barrier in the middle of the night. The true extent of his struggle with bipolar disorder was not known at the time thus his plan to openly seek help caught many off-guard. Given the way public life works in Washington this could have been the end of Kennedy’s public career but instead of the end it proved to be

Jimmy Carter: A Full Life

Jimmy-Carter-headshotLike so many I have had a mixture of feelings and responses to President Jimmy Carter over the years. It seems to me that most critics, left and right, have freely attributed to him the label of “poor president” or “political failure.” I wonder what history, long after his death, will actually say. Many thought that Harry Truman was a failure until after his death. Maybe Carter’s legacy will meet a similar fate but I have my doubts. If a president is known for his legislative accomplishments then Carter will always be seen as mediocre at best. Among conservatives he is loathed and even seen as the definition of failure and disappointment. (This was true at least until we elected President Barack Obama, who is now classed as lower than Jimmy Carter ever was by the same critics.)

It is ironic, perhaps, that Jimmy Carter is the only U.S. president I actually met in person. (It was brief and not memorable.) I have been to most of the presidential libraries and museums and read a great

A Global Charismatic Gathering @ the Vatican with Concerted Prayer for Christian Unity

UnknownPope Francis greeted tens of thousands of members of the charismatic movement last Friday, July 3, who were in Rome for their 38th annual Convocation. They gathered in St Peter’s Square for an evening of prayer, spirituality, and evangelization. Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli and Israeli singer Noa were among the singers who performed. The most amazing and moving part of the evening may have been the singing of the world’s best known hymn: “Amazing Grace.”

This global gathering event had a distinctly ecumenical character. The theme was: “Ways of Unity and Peace – Voices of Prayer for the Martyrs of Today and for a Spiritual Ecumenism.” No theme is closer to my own heart so I took notice of this event and rejoiced. When I watched the singing of the great hymn I was melted to tears of joy. I watched Pope Francis and prayed for him with renewed determination to do all I can to support him as my brother in Christ.

Representatives from the churches of many denominations and ecclesial communities were present for this great meeting


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