He is not here but is risen

320px-Matthias_Grünewald_-_The_Resurrection_(detail)_-_WGA10756Luke’s account of the resurrection is unique in several ways. He emphasizes the role of the women at the empty tomb more than any of the other gospels. He also tells us that there were a great many women, more than just a few. Luke’s gospel is the only gospel that doesn’t mention Jesus appearing to the women before they relayed the story to the disciples. In fact, Luke’s gospel seems to emphasize doubt, on the part of the disciples but even on the part of the women.

And the women who had come with Him from Galilee followed after, and they observed the tomb and how His body was laid. Then they returned and prepared spices and fragrant oils. And they rested on the Sabbath according to the commandment. (Luke 24:55-56)

Who were these women? Continue reading

What further testimony do we need?

One of the chief ways Biblical Christianity is unlike other philosophies and world religions is that it does not merely teach us how to be free of “the bad guy.” It tells us that we are the bad guy. This isn’t simply because of our limited natures, our lack of knowledge, or our being at the mercy of some other bigger bad guy. No, this is because we have chosen to like ourselves more than God. The Apostle Paul writes, “although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful” (Rom. 1:21). And this is especially true of Good Friday. The religious leaders of Israel were not simply upset with Jesus for who he claimed to be. It was not as if they simply didn’t believe him. No, they actually recognized who Jesus was. They knew, deep within themselves, that he was the messiah. And they hated him for it.

As soon as it was day, the elders of the people, both chief priests and scribes, came together and led Him into their council, saying,  “If You are the Christ, tell us.”

But He said to them, “If I tell you, you will by no means believe. And if I also ask you,you will by no means answer Me or let Me go. Hereafter the Son of Man will sit on the right hand of the power of God.”

Then they all said, “Are You then the Son of God?”

So He said to them, “You rightly say that I am.”

And they said, “What further testimony do we need? For we have heard it ourselves from His own mouth.”

(Luke 22:66-71)

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Why I Loved Les Mis

The 2012 movie version of Les Miserables reminds me of the reception of Mumford & Sons’ latest album.  Throngs of adoring fans, having awaited the releases for some time, made both huge commercial successes, both were then widely panned by critics for being too earnest (and thus unbelievable), and both were sorta Christian.  The differences are important too. Whereas Babel generated a surprisingly hostile review from a significant number of critics, Les Miserables is holding out at a respectable 70% on Rotten Tomatoes and has been nominated for 8 Academy Awards.  Another key difference, from my point of view at least, is that I mostly didn’t like Mumford’s new album (really liked the first one, but am now a little worn out by the monotony), but I absolutely loved Les Miserables.  I came very close to feeling those dreaded emotions after watching it, and you can ask around, that’s not a common occurrence for me.

Now, I’ve read a lot of criticisms of Les Miserables.  The New Yorker, somewhat predictably, turned their collective noses up at it.  Anthony Lane did his usual cynical routine, and David Denby, usually the good cop, was even worse, saying that, “It’s terrible; it’s dreadful. Overbearing, pretentious, madly repetitive.”  Oh well.  At least Adam Gopnik liked it.  I’m not too bothered by The New Yorker.  It’s a publication for people who think of themselves as intellectuals, which is a distinct group, actually, from mere intellectuals.

More relevant to my circles, and more directly challenging towards my own sentiments, are those critiques coming from Christian viewers.  I’ve seen the basic concern that Victor Hugo was himself not a Christian, along with other criticisms about the too-heavy emotions of the movie, the perils of Romanticism, and the overshadowing of any true message of grace by a sort of Enlightenment humanism.  Here I was thinking that I’d seen a profound presentation of the impossibility of lawbut perhaps I’d been mistaken.  What are we to think of these observations? Continue reading

The Actual Culture War

So there definitely is a culture war.  It doesn’t take much reading through academic literature and the press to see that discussions of reason and revelation, faith and science, social freedoms, public morality, and sexual identity all attract attention and all cut to the deepest convictions and principles of American society.  And it doesn’t take long to see that America is unsettled on those convictions and principles.  The problem is that this culture war is often pretty mixed up, with participants shooting themselves in the foot as often as anything else.

They say that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.  This is true.  People learn a couple of talking points and a few intellectual formulas, and suddenly they think they have profound weaponry for social regeneration.  One example is a billboard on Interstate 55 here in Jackson.  It’s advertising a school which, I’m told, actually does do a good job at placing students into colleges and preparing them for high-paying jobs.  Still, the sign’s faux intellectualism is unnerving.  It advertises that the school will “Teach you how to think, not what to think.”  Now that certainly sounds pious.  This school, unique among all others, will avoid brainwashing its students with socio-political bias and will instead impart to them a view-from-nowhere objectivity that will allow these students to discover the best world and life for each of them, as they freely realize it on their own, with no intrusion from the principalities and powers.

Obviously that’s ridiculous.   Continue reading

When To Get All Political And When Not To Do That

So politics, however messy things get in real life, is a legitimate topic of conversation, specialization, and even vocation.  There is nothing necessarily immoral or even undignified about the art of statecraft.  And politics are necessary.  Whenever you hear a politician deriding politics, as when our President says that we shouldn’t let “politics” prevent Washington from “getting things done,” you should ask the very basic question– “What ever else are they supposed to be doing?”  It’s a silly rhetorical conceit, designed to capitalize on and manipulate the common man’s cynicism.  And sometimes politics directly affects people’s lives and livelihoods.  So it matters, and people should care about it.

On the other hand, the old Southern rule of etiquette still holds true.  Politics really isn’t a good subject to discuss over dinner.  It can be alienating and off-putting in a number of ways.  First, it can quickly become a specialized topic, leaving out those people who have not been keeping up with the latest news.  It can also be divisive, in that not everyone is going to agree (surprise!).  And as much as we like to assume that politics is about good and evil or absolute justice vs. absolute injustice, this is actually irregularly the case.  More often it is about efficiency and prudence, what will work and what won’t work, or perhaps, what will kinda work and what won’t work so well.  People often don’t admit it, but their political thinking is biased, formed by sociology and personal history as much or more than by objective positions and principled argumentation.  In the same way you judge others, you will be judged, so let’s consider ourselves and our neighbor and extend an extra dose of charity to political conversation, even if that means not having it right now.

And so there’s nothing terribly profound in this post.  Rather, I just want to give some good pastoral advice, otherwise known as common courtesy.  Politics is not always awful, but neither is it always awesome.  Keep it in perspective.  Also, for those Calvinists out there who claim to believe in divine sovereignty and that there is “no power but of God,” does your rhetoric and ordinary anxiety level line up with your claim?  If you are always worried about politics, always talking about it, letting it actually get you down- well, might that not mean that “where your treasure is, there your heart is also”?  Are you trusting in chariots, after all?

Politics can be good, but it is always earthly.  The heavenly king is King Jesus, and his throne is forever.  Let your light shine before men, starting with a sunny disposition.  Trust in him, let your hearts not be troubled, and tone it down a notch at the table.

Fatherhood and Prayer

Everyone used to say, “Your life is going to change when you have a kid.”  To be honest, I slightly resented this at the time.  It wasn’t that I didn’t believe it, it’s just that I felt that folks without children were marginalized in the conservative Evangelical world.  Basically, I took the statement to mean, “You’re going to become so much better of a person when you have a kid.”  I would be complete.  Well-rounded.  Mature.

And while I do think there’s something to complain about there, especially in the Evangelical ministry (let’s face it, single pastors are simply not trusted), it is also truer than I realized that having a child does change you, and it does so all the way down.

But it didn’t do this in the way that some portray it.

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