Extracurricular Activities — December 21, 2013
I’m sure you’re all familiar with Santa Clause, the obese cola-chugging cookie-chomping fat man, who commits B&E offences across the world, organized from his crime syndicate HQ in the tax-exempt north pole, where he keeps midgets with pointy ears enslaved in his sweat shop to make cheap merchandise for Toys-R-Us.
But that Santa is not the real St. Nicholas. No, the real St. Nicholas of Myra was a die hard socialist who believed in giving handouts to the poor and loved nothing more than slapping down heretics who denied the deity of Christ.
Quick: without giving the title of this post too much thought, how would you answer the question? What's the first thought that comes to your head? The first impression that rises unbidden to the surface of your soul?
There are a number of legitimate dangers that need to be heeded when it comes to the New Calvinism. This could be, for some people, just another fad, just another chasing after the It Thang. The movement could crumble under the weight of self-importance. There is the danger of idolizing our heroes and envying our colleagues. There is the danger of minimizing important doctrines in an effort to promote gospel-centered unity. There is the danger of not being careful enough with our associations--and the opposite danger of taking glee in deciding who is in and who is out.
Our tendency is to make the Bible seem more accessible than it is with the hope that more people will read it. I think this is the wrong way to go about it. It’s just not going to happen.
When we stress the Bible’s “easiness,” we lead our people into two wrong directions. Some will throw up their hands and say, “I must be really stupid because this seems very dense.” Or, even worse, we train people to only look for the easy parts, to be satisfied with daily nuggets of wisdom and never wade deep into the Bible’s waters. Either way, you wind up with people who never feel the satisfaction of studying the Bible on their own.
Instead, I suggest we be upfront about the demanding nature of the Bible. Let your people know that it’s hard work. It’s a challenge.
As a follow-up to my previous posting in which I cited again Andrew Chester’s review of recent scholarly analysis of earliest "christology" here, I want to offer some further comments intended to clarify a few matters for those interested.
First, the sort of questions that I address are historical ones, i.e., questions that are in principle open to investigation by anyone interested and with the necessary competence, requiring no particular ideological or theological stance as a premise
Second, my own focus has been on devotional practices as the most important indication of ancient "religious" behavior and convictions
Third, as to the larger questions about when Jesus came to be treated as in some way having/sharing a "divine" status and significance, and how we can recognize this, there are basically three main positions in scholarship...
Here is a small part of an article about the conversation Ted Turner recently had with Wolf Blitzer…. see what you think…
Turner’s rocky relationship with his supreme being, assuming there is one, stems back to childhood.
When he was very young, he dreamed of being a missionary. Then his little sister, Mary Jean, got sick at age 12. He watched as she suffered terribly from a rare form of lupus and complications that left her with brain damage and screaming in pain for years until she died. It shook his faith profoundly.
He could not understand why any God would let an innocent suffer.
"She was sick for five years before she passed away. And it just seemed so unfair, because she hadn't done anything wrong," he said. "What had she done wrong? And I couldn't get any answers. Christianity couldn’t give me any answers to that. So my faith got shaken somewhat."
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