The first book of the Bible, Genesis, tells us that God made humanity in the image and likeness of God. This is narrated in Genesis 1:26-28. Throughout history, scholars and theologians have debated what this means. At LAMP Seminary RDU, we’re currently reading Anthony Hoekema’s Created In the Image of God, which is a wonderful treatment of this sometimes controversial and confusing concept.
Hoekema (1913-1988) was long-time professor at Calvin Theological Seminary, and was a theologian in the Dutch Reformed tradition. But, this book is not a dry and dusty tome of big theology words. Although there is some meaty content, Hoekema always brings his Biblical and theological insights to bear on the realities of practical life. He consistently surprises in showing how relevant the doctrine of the imago dei is. Our last “Mission Monday” post considered the inadequacy of the phrase “give a hand up, not a hand out,” with help from Professor Soong-Chan Rah. To build a solid theology of helping others, we need to understand the doctrine of the imago dei. And yes, this is related to Christmas. Hang with me until the end!
Continue reading “Christmas & the Imago Dei”
[Some All Saints Day (and late “Reformation Day”) musings, tying together my dual roles as a high school Biblical Greek teacher and a student of church history.]
Martin Luther did not mean to start the Reformation. In 1517, Luther, a teacher of theology in Germany, posted some items for an academic discussion on the church door in Wittenberg (really a community bulletin board back then). At this point in his career, he had no intention to break away from the Roman Catholic church—as a “doctor” of theology Luther had the right, and the obligation, to express concerns about the church. Luther was attacking the practices of some extreme “indulgence preachers” who were basically selling get-out-of-Purgatory-free cards (indulgences). Luther had no idea how far up the chain of authority this corruption went. In fact, Pope Leo X gave his official blessing to this indulgence fund-raiser in order to finance his massive building project at St. Peter’s Basilica, the largest church in Christendom. Continue reading ““Greek Life” @ Cary Christian School – Training the Next Generation of Reformers”
Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals by Shane Claiborne
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This is an exciting book! I came to it with hardly any background knowledge on who the New Monastics are, and I think that served me well. I see this text as a healthy injection of ancient wisdom into the postmodern church. This book breathes a freshness and a vitality that are missing from the more traditional churches that have never abandoned the historic liturgies. In many ways, familiarity breeds contempt. I won’t accuse any churches of having contempt for their historic liturgies, but there definitely seem to be churches that take their liturgies for granted. The New Monastics have stumbled into these ancient practices, somewhat like the children in “The Secret Garden,” and are helping to shake up the Church, forcing us to re-examine the central things. What does it mean to worship? What does it mean to live in community? How does God want us to use our resources? Some of the answers given by the New Monastics may sound a little too “politically correct” for some people, but I believe they are basically on the right track. God has a way of messing with our traditions, and our assumptions.
I encourage anyone unfamiliar with “liturgy” to pick up this book and give it the benefit of the doubt. This book is meant to be used in community, in prayer with other people. Use it to give some form and purpose to your small-group worship time. Best of all, the book is filled with Scripture, rather than someone’s pale imitation of Scripture. The lectionary is also helpful, as a guide to reading the Bible together in community. I appreciated the quotes from saints and heroes of the faith. They are truly inspiring. Walking in the footsteps of Christ can be lonely, difficult work, and this book is encouragement for the journey.
(Also check out their website for daily prayer: http://commonprayer.net/)
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A wonderful quote from Robert L. Wilken’s The Spirit of Early Christian Thought: “The Resurrection of Jesus is the central fact of Christian devotion and the ground of all Christian thinking. The Resurrection was not a solitary occurence, a prodigious miracle, but an event within a framework of Jewish history, and it brought into being a new community, the church. Christianity enters history not only as a message but as a communal life, a society …”
This year, the Eastern churches and the Western church will both celebrate Easter on the same day. (The East and the West have followed different calendars for a long time.) What a wonderful reminder that we are part of the same Body of Christ! Even though we may have strong disagreements with each other (and may even doubt whether those “other churches” are even Christian), we will all be remembering and celebrating the Resurrection of Jesus Christ on the same day! This the fact which has changed human history. This is what creates a new society of redeemed people.
“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation” (2 Cor. 5:17). Let’s live like it!
Great Lent: Journey to Pascha by Alexander Schmemann
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is another liturgical classic from Alexander Schmemann. He helpfully explains the principles behind the development of the Orthodox Church Year, and shows how all of our worship leads up to Easter. You don’t have to be Orthodox to profit from this book, as Schmemann is generous with criticisms of his own tradition, as well as the Western tradition. He closes with practical observations on how to focus on God in the midst of our busy, frentic, and secular life-style. This is the main point of the book–how to bring every area of our lives under the Lordship of Christ. At times, Schmemann sounds quite Reformed … or is this just basic Christianity?
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I found this article quite helpful in developing a Reformed Catholic view of Halloween – “Is Halloween a Witches’ Brew?” by Harold L. Myra.
Here is something I wrote a few years ago on the subject.
And here are some more developed thoughts that I didn’t have time to write then!
“Reformation Day Thoughts (09)” – a talk I plan to give to at a church gathering on Oct. 31.