Living with a Calendar

The human relationship with time is a strange thing. The upright stones of neo-lithic human communities stand as silent reminders of our long interest in seasons and the movement of the heavens. Today our light-polluted skies shield many of us from the brilliant display of the night sky and rob us of the stars. The modern world is not only shielded from the stars, but from many aspects of time itself. Artificial…

The Bible and the Spirit of Democracy

My first introduction to ancient writings was in my Classical Greek classes my freshman year of college. Most of those were tortuous exercises filled with the rules of a foreign grammar. My friends laughed at how hard and long I labored in those studies. With time, however, the work began to yield pleasure as the language became a familiar friend. The same experience followed in my sophomore year as I added Latin…

The Grammar of the Faith

Recent studies have documented the fact that we begin to acquire language from our earliest moments. Even the babbling of infants plays a role. Sounds, words, facial expressions – all have a part in perhaps the most complex of all human activities. As we learn to speak, we not only learn words and sounds, but we simultaneously learn the unspoken rules that govern every language – the rules of grammar. I recall…

The Church and the Scriptures

My recent articles on the place of the Scriptures, their relationship with the Church, and the proper manner it which they are to be regarded have drawn more than a little comment (and some fire) including on other blogsites. In this article I want to take time to answer some specific points and to add some further observations. A Reform article, by Michael J. Kruger (Professor of NT at Reform Theological School in Charlotte),…

There Is No “Bible” in the Bible

There are certain ideas that, once introduced, tend to change how people think of everything else. This is certainly the case with the Bible. For of all the ideas about the Scripture, the most recent is the notion of “the Bible.” The word “Bible” simply means “book.” Thus, it is a name that means “the Book.” It is a particularly late notion if for no other reason than that books are a…

The Human Project

“Becoming human” is a baffling phrase. Surely we are simply born as human beings. Of course this is true, but the nature of the modern world allows us to configure our lives in ways that can be described as “less than human.” When we visit a zoo and see a tiger pacing in its cage, we are not seeing a “true” tiger, but a distortion of the animal. Tigers cannot truly be…

The Tradition of Being Human

Being human is a cultural event. No one is human by themselves and no one becomes human without the help of those around them. This is so obvious it should not need to be stated, but contemporary man often imagines himself to be his own creation. The exercise of individual freedom is exalted as the defining characteristic of our existence: “I am what I choose to be.” To suggest that most of…

The Church is the Cross Through History

An aspect of the contemporary religious scene could be called “comparative Christianity”: whose version of Christianity is better? In a consumer culture such comparisons are inevitable. Sometimes they are rooted in historical arguments (Protestant vs. Catholic, the details of the Great Schism, etc.). Often they are simply rooted in consumer perceptions (better program, better music, better coffee, etc.). Underneath such comparisons, however, is the greater question of the nature of the Church…

Saintless Christianity

What would Christianity mean if there were no saints? To rephrase the question: What would be the meaning of the Christian gospel if there were no wonderworkers, no people who had been transfigured with the Divine Light, no clairvoyant prophets, no healers, no people who had raised the dead, no ascetics living alone in the deserts for years on end, no beacons of radical, all-forgiving love?  What would be the meaning of…

The Long Defeat and the Cross

Few ideas contrast as starkly to our modern myths as Tolkien’s view of history as “the long defeat.” I have been very interested in the continuing comments that struggle with the perceived pessimism of such a phrase. I have refrained from commenting at length myself, for the very reason that I wanted to do so in an article. For the nature of the long defeat that is the Christian life and the…