Friday, December 30, 2005

Uncovering Scripture


I just received an email from my friend David Graves, under whose professorship I studied the History of British Biblical Archaeology at Oxford and the British Museum in London. He wrote to me from a place where Abraham most probably stood several millennia ago, a certain excavation site in Jordan on the Dead Sea. He can see Bethel, Ai, and Jericho from his position.

He's with a crew of archaeologists excavating what is believed to be a significant Old Testament city. I can't offer specifics at this time, but they plan to make news releases soon.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Why He Came to Us

"Peace on earth and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled."
(from "Hark! the Herald Angels Sing!
Words by Charles Wesley, Music by Felix Mendelssohn")
This is probably the most profound line of all Christmas carols. It proclaims the reality of the Gospel, the foundation of the Good News, the victorious mission of God incarnate. Christ did not come to be a cute baby in a stable; he came to save sinners.

At the fall of mankind, we were all estranged from our Creator, alien, having no part with him. Because it is impossible to restore this relationship ourselves, God, in his grace, came to atone (to make us "at one") with himself and reconcile humans who are dead in sin. Christ's mission was to reconcile sinners to himself. What an awesome concept! He had no reason to do such a thing apart from his own love.

Of course not all people are saved. A heart must be opened by the God's Spirit. Is the Spirit tugging at you? No one is saved unless he is inside Christ. Are you in Christ?

He was born in a feed trough because he was a lamb. He died a bloody death because he was a sacrificial lamb, because "without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins" (Hebrews 9:22).

If you are a dead sinner, be reconciled, for apart from Christ there is no reconciliation. Only then can you do as the song says: "Joyful, all ye nations rise, join the triumph of the skies; with th' angelic host proclaim, "Christ is born in Bethlehem!" There can be no real joy without life in Christ!

"Mild he lays his glory by,
born that we no more may die,
born to raise us from the earth,
born to give us second birth."

Thursday, December 22, 2005

How the Liberal Stole Christmas



pol·i·tics ( pŏl ' ĭ-tĭks ) n. From poly, meaning "many", and ticks, meaning "blood-sucking insects."

Another raving jeremiad against the system from a beautiful pregnant Canadian: click here

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Emerson

I happened across this interesting line in an old book I have of Ralph Waldo Emerson's essays, in a lecture called "New England Reformers" given in 1844:

"It is yet in all men's memory that, a few years ago, the liberal churches complained that the Calvinistic church denied to them the name of Christian. I think the complaint was confession: a religious church would not complain."

Any thoughts?

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Another Early Church Artifact

Look at this new archaeological artifact just found in Tiberias. Once again, scholars are baffled by ancient Christian discoveries, this time a "Christ Seal." See it and read it on Deus Artefacta.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Happy Birthday George Whitefield and Jane Austen



On December 16, 1714 George Whitefield, the celebrated Calvinist Methodist preacher of the Great Awakening, was born at the Bell Inn, Gloucester.
Jane Austen was born on the same day in 1775, in Steventon, Hampshire.

Please take a moment to read this bit of Whitefield wisdom on irresistable grace:

“Come, ye dead, Christless, unconverted sinner, come and see the place where they laid the body of the deceased Lazarus; behold him laid out, bound hand and foot with graveclothes, locked up and stinking in a dark cave, with a great stone placed on top of it. View him again and again; go nearer to him; be not afraid; smell him, Ah! how he stinketh. Stop there now, pause a while; and whilst thou art gazing upon the corpse of Lazarus, give me leave to tell thee with great plainness, but greater love, that this dead, bound, entombed, stinking carcase, is but a faint representation of thy poor soul in it natural state;...thy spirit which thou bearest about with thee, sepulchered in flesh and blood, is literally dead to God, and as truly dead in trespasses and sins, as the body of Lazarus was in the cave. Was he bound hand and foot with graveclothes? So art thou bound hand and foot with thy corruptions; and as a stone was laid on the sepulchre, so there is a stone of unbelief upon thy stupid heart. Perhaps thou has lain in this estate, not only four days, but many years, stinking in God’s nostrils. And, what is still more effecting, thou art as unable to raise thyself out of this loathsome, dead state, to a life of righteousness and true holiness, as ever Lazarus was to raise himself from the cave in which he lay so long. Thou mayest try the power of thy boasted free will, and the force and energy of moral persuasion and rational arguments (which, without doubt, have their proper place in religion); but all thy efforts, exerted with never so much vigor, will prove quite fruitless and abortive, till that same Jesus, who said ‘take away the stone” and cried “Lazarus, come forth,” also quicken you. This is grace, graciously offered, and grace graciously applied."

Miscellaneous:
  • "It is a poor sermon that gives no offense; that neither makes the hearer displeased with himself nor with the preacher." (Then I guess Jesus preached good sermons)
  • "The fall of man is written in too legible characters not to be understood: Those that deny it, by their denying, prove it."
  • "As for the extraordinary operations of the Holy Ghost, such as working of miracles, or speaking with divers kinds of tongues, they are long since ceased." (...coming from a revival preacher)
  • "Here then I could conclude; but I must not forget the poor negroes; no, I must not. Jesus Christ had died for them, as well as for others."

And Austen:

  • "We met Dr. Hall in such deep mourning that either his mother, his wife, or himself must be dead. "

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Vatican Retires Doctrine


The Vatican has just dissolved their belief in Limbo, that awkward place that's neither heaven nor hell. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia it is the:

(a) the temporary place or state of the souls of the just who, although purified from sin, were excluded from the beatific vision until Christ's triumphant ascension into heaven (the "limbus patrum"); or (b) to the permanent place or state of those unbaptized children and others who, dying without grievous personal sin, are excluded from the beatific vision on account of original sin alone (the "limbus infantium" or "puerorum").

The Roman church has finally grown out of this medieval and unbiblical doctrine, which, according to Pope Benedict, is only a "theological hypothesis" anyway. Congratulations to the Vatican who has taken this baby step.
They could save a lot of time and money if they'd just listen to the Reformed Christians who figured this, as well as a myriad of other fallacies, out 500 YEARS AGO.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Disney's Lion of Judah



So we saw it last night. It was excellent. I was extremely impressed at the content of the film. It was so close to the book, both in script and visually, that Emily and I felt that we had seen the movie before! Very little dialogue was removed, and actually, one particularly theological line was added. When the White Witch started to lecture Aslan on the due punishment (a blood sacrifice) of treason (sin) according to the Old Magic (Old Testament), Aslan cut her off, saying, "Don't talk to me about the Old Magic, I was there when it was written!" There was no such line in the book, but boy did it strengthen the doctrine. I have to say that I am impressed with the writers who faithfully presented C.S. Lewis in a pure way. They deserve applause.

They did leave out reference to the Emperor-over-the-sea, Aslan's father, who is obviously God the Father. I also think, after seeing the movie, that Father Christmas is supposed to be the Holy Spirit, who empowers the children with gifts. Anyway... we can debate Narnian trinitarianism later.

By the way, did you know that Narnia is in Italy?? After Lewis died, people discovered that he had "Narnia" underlined in his atlas. It's an actual small town north of Rome! Today it's called Narni, but the old name is Narnia, as you can see on the ancient map. I read the other day that a local furniture maker in the village is boosting his production of wardrobes before the Italian premiere, because they all expect an increase in tourism. The mayor wants all shops to have Narnian style window displays, as well as have a big festival.

I knew it. Once again it's proven that everything wonderful - art, architecture, sculpture, music, the telescope, viticulture (wine), me, the jacuzzi, ice cream, the piano, violin, cello, pasta, navigation, paved roads, the telephone, me, the corkscrew, concrete, the radio, the zamboni (sorry Canadians), espresso, eyeglasses, the parachute, the thermometer, the heliocentric universe, the typewriter, me, wireless telegraphy, and now Narnia! - originates in Italy. Viva Italia! and Narnia!

Saturday, December 10, 2005

'Twas the Fight Before Christmas


"With Mama in her kerchief and I in my cap,
In ran St. Nicholas ready to slap!"

Recently, my friend Graham published on a little known but TRUE anecdote about how jolly ol' St. Nicholas slapped a heretic across the face at a church meeting and then was defrocked of his bishopric and thrown in prison. I just read a similar story on World Magazine's blogsite , and I will republish it here:

"Santa Claus, Heretic Slapper
Rev. Scott Stiegemeyer imparts the delicious information that
St. Nicholas, who would later become the model for Santa Claus, attended the Council of Nicea, which affirmed the deity of Christ. Not only that, he got so fed up at the heretic Arius that he went up and slapped him, for which he had to apologize. (Rev. Petersen, who first brought this up, has more.)
We need to work that into our Christmas imagery: Santa Claus going around battling heretics who deny who Jesus is. And giving a gentle but heart-felt slap to people who take Christ out of Christmas. Department Store Santas quizzing children who sit on their laps about the Two Natures of Christ and giving clerks who say "Happy Holiday" a slap. Also teachers who forbid the singing of Christmas carols because they mention Jesus. And ministers who cancel Sunday church services that fall on Christmas day.
We will need songs ("Santa Claus is Coming to Slap"; "Frosty the Gnostic"; "Rudolph the Red Knows Jesus"). And Christmas specials ("How the Arian Stole Christmas").
Help me out here. What else could we do to recast Santa as a jolly old theological enforcer? I feel a column coming on."

Friday, December 09, 2005

Happy Birthday John Milton


What in me is dark
Illumine, what is low raise and support,
That to the height of this great argument
I may assert eternal Providence,
And justify the ways of God to men.
(Paradise Lost. Book i. Line 22.)

Join me in celebrating the birthday of John Milton, the beloved poet, who on this day turns 397 years old.


"One of the greatest poets of the English language, best-known for his epic poem PARADISE LOST (1667). Milton's powerful, rhetoric prose and the eloquence of his poetry had an immense influence especially on the 18th-century verse. Besides poems, Milton published pamphlets defending civil and religious rights."
- from this site.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

One of My Favorite Hymns

"Jesus, Lover of My Soul" by Charles Wesley
To sing along with the MUSIC, click here.

Jesus, lover of my soul, let me to Thy bosom fly,
While the nearer waters roll, while the tempest still is high.
Hide me, O my Savior, hide, till the storm of life is past;
Safe into the haven guide; O receive my soul at last.
Other refuge have I none, hangs my helpless soul on Thee;
Leave, ah! leave me not alone, still support and comfort me.
All my trust on Thee is stayed, all my help from Thee I bring;
Cover my defenseless head with the shadow of Thy wing.
Wilt Thou not regard my call? Wilt Thou not accept my prayer?
Lo! I sink, I faint, I fall—Lo! on Thee I cast my care;
Reach me out Thy gracious hand! While I of Thy strength receive,
Hoping against hope I stand, dying, and behold, I live.
Thou, O Christ, art all I want, more than all in Thee I find;
Raise the fallen, cheer the faint, heal the sick, and lead the blind.
Just and holy is Thy Name, I am all unrighteousness;
False and full of sin I am; Thou art full of truth and grace.
Plenteous grace with Thee is found, grace to cover all my sin;
Let the healing streams abound; make and keep me pure within.
Thou of life the fountain art, freely let me take of Thee;
Spring Thou up within my heart; rise to all eternity.

Friday, December 02, 2005

My Beautiful Wife


I would just like to again pay tribute to my gorgeous and brilliant love of my life, Emily Joyce, by whom I am so blessed. She's already a wonderful mother, and the baby hasn't even been born yet!

Her blog, Letters Mingling, is a nod to John Donne, the 17th century English poet and preacher. Emily wrote an incredible BA Honours thesis entitled, "'Draw Mine Iron Heart:' John Donne and Moderate Calvinist Conformity in the Seventeenth Century". She argued from his sonnets and sermons that Donne, the Anglican dean of St. Paul's Cathedral in London, was indeed Calvinistic, which reflected the religious temper of the time. Most scholars argue that he was more Roman Catholic in his beliefs, but Emily Belli and only a couple guys at Oxford argue that he was Reformed, just not a Separatist like, say, me.

Anyway, even if Emily wasn't as smart, even if she was a bad English scholar who wrote that Shakespeare was a Buddhist and Jane Austen a Muslim Jihadist (for which I believe there's a strong case), I would still love her more than anything.

My face in thine eye, thine in mine appears,
And true plain hearts do in the faces rest ;
Where can we find two better hemispheres
Without sharp north, without declining west ?
Whatever dies, was not mix'd equally;
If our two loves be one, or thou and I
Love so alike that none can slacken, none can die.
-John Donne, from "The Good-Morrow"

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Sovereignty

"The only thing we contribute to our salvation is the sin which makes it necessary."