Posts tagged with: Bible and Theology

christ3Holy Week gives us an excellent opportunity to simply take time to look beyond ourselves. When I was little kid, lying in bed at night, I would sometimes become terrified and overwhelmed with the idea of death. I was so petrified of the notion that after death I would be snuffed out of existence for eternity. I’d turn on all the lights and desperately try to distract myself from my deepest thoughts. It didn’t help much that the first dream I can remember as a kid was being chased by the devil with a pitchfork. It made me concerned about the destiny of my eternal state. Ultimately, the only thing that cured me from these panic attacks was the Gospel and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I had to look beyond myself.

With the suffering death and resurrection of Christ, no kind of death should trouble a person clinging to Christ. As the angels said, “Why do you seek the living One among the dead?” And as Athanasius declared in On the Incarnation, “A marvelous and mighty paradox has thus occurred, for the death which they thought to inflict on Him as dishonor and disgrace has become the glorious monument to death’s defeat.” Often we look upon the cross and see violence foremost. It is our sin that put Christ there. But Jesus bore the entire weight of the world and it could not contain him. He was beaten, mutilated, and scourged, but the Father glorified Him in death. Hillary of Poiters noted:

The sun, instead of setting, fled, and all the other elements felt that same shock of the death of Christ. The stars in their courses, to avoid complicity in the crime, escaped by self-extinction from beholding the scene. The earth trembled under the weight of our Lord hanging on the cross and testified that it did not have the power to hold within it him who was dying.


Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev) of Volokoamsk

Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev) of Volokolamsk

For Syria’s Christians, it’s a time of great peril and uncertainty. Over the Holy weekend, one Christian in Syria summed up the situation in The New York Times: “Either everything will be O.K. in one year, or there will be no Christians here.”

In Religion & Liberty, Metropolitan Hilarion gives considerable attention to the plight of Christians in Syria and the Middle East. On ecumenical relations, the Metropolitan also talks about the obstacles of a united front for Christianity because of doctrinal liberalism within some Protestant branches, who incessantly rebel against historic Christian teachings. Metropolitan Hilarion is a bishop of the Russian Orthodox Church and chairman of the Department of External Church Relations.

“First Citizen and Antillon” by Samuel Hearne is a timely contribution given the rise of religious persecution in America today. The Charles Carroll of Carrollton and Daniel Dulany debates in 18th century Maryland helped to advance religious freedom in the colonies. Charles Carroll was the only Roman Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence and the last signer to pass away in November of 1832.

Timothy J. Barnett reviews Dennis Prager’s Still the Best Hope: Why the World Needs American Values to Triumph and Bruce Edward Walker reviews Silent Spring at 50: The False Crises of Rachel Carson.

The “In the Liberal Tradition” figure is Metropolitan Phillip II (1507 – 1569). Phillip was a martyred Russian Orthodox monk. His life and courageous testimony serves as an example for Christians everywhere.

One of the most misunderstood and maligned aspects of businesses throughout history and certainly today are profits. Profitable companies and services still stir considerable misunderstanding and even rage in some. Rev. Robert Sirico offers an excerpt on “The Role of Profits” from his book Defending the Free Market.

You can check out all of the content in the R&L issue here. The next issue features an interview with Peter Schweizer on cronyism. Schweizer is a best-selling author and fellow at the Hoover Institution.

Blog author: rnothstine
Friday, March 29, 2013

The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.” (John 11:44)

One of the most beautiful aspects of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is that everything Christ does is for the purpose of raising up humanity. The raising of Lazarus of Bethany in John 11 is of course an obvious prelude to our own resurrection and the power of Christ over death. His power is not just limited to raising the dead but restoring the decayed, literally a corpse that had begun to rot. The spiritual lesson concerning Christ as the chosen one to restore and regenerate humanity is hard to miss. Only the Author of life can resurrect the dead and stand in as the new Adam.

Many today are walking around in their grave clothes. They’re lost and burying themselves in sin, shame, and guilt. In John 11 we have Christ showing up after the funeral where Lazarus’s sisters are mourning his loss. The incarnate Christ, who fully understands the general misery of the whole human race, presents himself as the Messiah with even greater clarity on this day.

When the Word of Life speaks, commanding Lazarus to “come forth,” his voice as Word revives the dead and brings new life. Easter is the seal of the truth and glory of Christ. Amazingly, because of Easter, the Scottish theologian Hugh Mackintosh was able to say, “The heart of man and the heart of God beat in the risen Lord.”

Below is an amazing clip from “The Greatest Story Ever Told.”

molechWe are now witnessing how some make the tie between human tragedy and federal spending. Just yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid shamelessly implied that the accident that killed seven Marines in Nevada is tied to spending cuts from sequester. Hollywood actor Harrison Ford lamented that “accidents are going to happen” in aviation because of sequester. It’s almost if more government spending is needed to appease the wrath of the Divine State. If not appeased, wrath will reign down on humanity and nature if not given due alms. We know from Exodus that the Lord our God is a jealous God, but is the federal government a jealous god too? Slowing the rate of growth of this god stirs up anger.

We are being told by lawmakers and citizens that we can’t afford to cut federal spending. Never mind that almost every single American has noticed no change from a paltry and temporary slowing growth rate from sequester. But we are told it’s far too dangerous for our safety and humanity’s future. Never mind that we read absurd stories daily about federal spending initiatives that study why lesbians are fat or why they drink more than the general population.

Washington now has the inability to come together to at least make any responsible strides to curtail our spending crisis. Even throughout American history it has generally been understood by both parties that the federal government can’t or shouldn’t solve all of our problems. Instead, we see lawmakers almost ritualistically dancing on the dead bodies of innocent victims in their call for more spending and government involvement in our lives. It’s becoming a gruesome cult like practice.

In Ideas Have Consequences, Richard Weaver declares, “It is likely that human society cannot exist without some source of sacredness. Those states which have sought openly to remove it have tended in the end to assume divinity themselves.”

This summer I am teaching a class at Acton University titled “Religion and Presidential Politics in the Modern Era.” I’ll touch more upon the the topic of divinization of government in that lecture.

We’re witnessing increases in attacks on religious liberty, sin taxes, and massive centralization and debt. We need to ask ourselves going forward if a jealous government god is going to want to continue to compete with the Church?

Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite, professor of theology at Chicago Theological Seminary believes that Jesus had an economic plan. She’s written a book, #Occupy the Bible: What Jesus Really Said (and Did) About Money and Power, and claims that Jesus came to reverse economic inequality.

When Jesus announced his ministry as “good news to the poor” and to “proclaim the Year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4: 18-19), he meant that he wanted his society to have a year when economic inequality was reversed. That’s the “Year of the Lord’s favor” or the biblical “Jubilee” as I write in the Chapter 6: “The Jubilee, or, Jesus Had an Economic Plan” in #OccupytheBible.

Her recent article in the Huffington Post has some merit. She points out that Americans need to do a much better job at lifting people out of poverty, and that children in our country should not be hungry. However, the idea that Jesus came, not as a Savior for our sins, but as some sort of economic guru who started an Occupy the Roman Empire movement is not only absurd, it’s theological contortion.

Jesus’ economic plan was pretty simple: “repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God” (Mt. 22:21) Putting that Scripture in context, one notes that Jesus was replying to the Pharisees who were trying to trap him into speaking out against the Romans. He quietly turned the tables on them.

Nowhere in Scripture does Jesus condemn wealth in and of itself. He demands the same from both the poor and the wealthy: to store up treasure in Heaven, to love God and others, and to take up our crosses and follow Him. It’s not much of an economic plan, but then Jesus wasn’t an economist. He had bigger things on His mind.

Blog author: rnothstine
Thursday, July 19, 2012

A Reuters article highlights the fact that U.S. Agricultural Secretary Tom Vilsack is praying for rain to help relieve droughts in the Midwest. The drought is having a significant impact on farmers and their crops. The negative affect will of course inevitably lead to higher food prices as the supply is cut. Experts say it could be the most severe dry spell since 1950.

The lack of rain and heat is really a simple reminder of our lack of control over the created order. Even with all of our technological advances and gadgets, we are still dependent on God. Sometimes it seems our culture and society has forgotten the source of life. Secretary Vilsack recognizes the need for prayer, and often times, governors, especially of farm states, will issue declarations for citizens to pray for rain.

God of course uses rain and droughts to get the attention of His people. The Old Testament is full of teaching on God’s use of droughts and rain to teach theology, obedience, judgment, and favor.

On the Ricky Skagg’s album Ancient Tones, there is a song titled “Give Us Rain.” Part of the lyrics to the tune certainly speak to us today,

Grandpa raised a family on a worn out cotton farm
Borrowed money on his word, he never did nobody harm
Sometimes he’d get discouraged when a dry spell came around
He’d go out in the cotton field and he’d kneel down on the ground

Give us rain on this dry old ground today
Give us rain, wash the troubled times away
I believe you’re faithful, I’m not meaning to complain
But Lord we sure could use a little rain
Lord we sure could use a little rain.

We can’t say for certain what the lack of rain means, but we know that God can give us rain. We can use the reminder that we are a world dependent on God and His goodness for our life and sustenance.

Herman Selderhuis

2017 marks the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. For the Winter 2012 Religion & Liberty issue, now available online, we interviewed Reformation scholar Herman Selderhuis. Refo500, under the direction of Selderhuis, wants to help people understand the meaning and lasting significance of the Reformation. Selderhuis and Refo500 are already playing an essential role in promoting the anniversary and Acton is honored to be a part of that endeavor as well.

For myself, Reformation study was critical to my own spiritual formation. Roland Bainton’s Here I Stand is just one book that has had a lasting impact in my life.

This year marks the 60th anniversary of the publication of Witness by Whittaker Chambers. We have a superb article by Richard Reinsch on the deep influence of Witness and its relevance today. Reinsch authored the exceptional Whittaker Chambers: The Spirit of a Counterrevolutionary in 2010. I reviewed the book in a past issue of R&L.

James Franko contributed an essay from a classically liberal perspective on “A Case for Limiting Caesar.” I’ve contributed a review of Mark Tooley’s new book Methodism and Politics in the 20th Century.

The “In the Liberal Tradition” figure is Francis Hutcheson. Hutcheson, of course, would do much to shape the notion of rights in the American colonies.

Let me also say something about the expansion of Rev. Robert Sirico’s column for this issue. We have excerpted a passage from his new book Defending the Free Market: The Moral Case for a Free Economy. It will be available from Regnery in May of this year. Anybody who is an admirer or feels they can learn something from Rev. Sirico will cherish this publication. It really serves to remind us all just how much the Acton Institute and its mission makes sense.

There is more in this issue. Check out the editor’s notes for all the details.