Monday, January 23, 2012

What of it?


One of my favorite movies is the 2003 "Luther," starring Joseph Fiennes. One of my favorite lines from the movie comes from Luther preaching in the Wittenburg church. I had assumed that the makers of the film may have taken some artisitic license in creating this sermon. But it turns out that some of the words come directly from a letter written by Martin Luther to his friend, Jerome Weller, in 1530. Here is the excellent quote for your edification:
When the devil throws our sins up to us and declares we deserve death and hell, we ought to speak thus: 
“I admit that I deserve death and hell. 
What of it? 
Does this mean that I shall be sentenced to eternal damnation? 
By no means. 
For I know One who suffered and made a satisfaction in my behalf. 
His name is Jesus Christ, the Son of God. 
Where he is, there I shall be also.”
-Martin Luther, h/t Justin Taylor

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Impressive


Kevin DeYoung: Following up on the Jesus/Religion Video

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!
-Psalm 133:1

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Cheap marketing tricks, anti-intellectualism and the "I hate religion" crowd


There's a popular video going around facebook lately where a young man, whom I believe is a brother in Christ, waxes poetic about how he hates religion. I've heard this many times before, how religion supposedly is the worst evil imaginable and how it is a direct antithesis to a relationship with Jesus Christ. It's always grated on me but I guess this video, and the number of times I saw it reposted by Christian friends on facebook, kind of pushed me over the edge.

I think this "religion is evil" axiom is one of the best examples of the anti-intellectualism with which Evangelicalism is rife and also an example of a marketing trick employed to make Christianity look more palatable as an evangelism tool. It's anti-intellectual because it is a redefinition of the word "religion." As another facebook friend recently kindly pointed out, religion has traditionally been defined as,  "a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances." And while many heretics would deny it, there is a set of propositions which must be believed in order to be a Christian, or to have a relationship with Christ. The most obvious of these propositions would be that one must believe that there is a God before being a Christian or having a relationship with Christ. I would also say that if one denies the Trinity, the Virgin birth, the substitutionary atonement and the physical resurrection of Christ, among many other truths then one is not a Christian. And while some would deny it I would also say that devotional and ritual observances are also an integral part of Christianity. I don't believe that baptism or the eucharist save, but if they are not being practiced, then true Christianity is not being practiced either. Christianity is of course different from every other religion in that it is the only religion which is also a relationship with the one true God. But let me repeat, it is a religion.

The "religion is evil" axiom is also a good example of a cheap marketing tool to try to make Christianity more palatable to the world. If we can only separate Christianity from all of those evil things which have been done in the name of religion then maybe we can win a few more converts. But the fact is Christians have done evil things in the name of Christ just like believers in every other religion have done evil things. The difference, I believe, is that those men, some of whom probably were true Christians, who did evil things in the name of Christ were being disobedient to Christ when they did them. When a Muslim, on the other hand, kills a family member for converting to Christ, I'm not so convinced that they are being disobedient to Allah. So when a Christian does evil things in the name of his faith he is not living up to the demands of his faith, and none of us do, but when a person belonging to some other religion does something evil in the name of their faith I think they might very well be living up to whatever their faith commands.

The thing I find most frustrating is that I actually agreed with almost everything this guy said in his video. I just disagree with misusing the English language, anti-intellectualism and marketing tricks to try to make Christ look more appealing. And I think I'm in good company when it comes to not hating religion, the Apostle James wrote, "religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world." (James 1:27)

And here's the video:



Friday, January 6, 2012

Chrysostom on Epiphany: Magi Saved by Grace through Faith


The Magi, teachers of a false faith, could never have come to know Christ Our Lord, had they not been illumined by the grace of this divine condescension. Indeed the grace of God overflowed at the Birth of Christ, so that each single soul might be enlightened by His Truth. The Magi are enlightened so that the goodness of God may be made manifest: so that no one need despair, doubting that salvation through faith will be given to him, seeing He bestowed it on the Magi. The Magi therefore were the first from the Gentiles chosen for salvation, so that through them a door might be opened to all the Gentiles.
-St. John Chrysostom (347-407) from an Epiphany sermon