Jesus also said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade. With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.” —Mark 4:30-34 Continue reading
Bill Holladay died last week and his funeral was yesterday. He was Samuel Edgar Lowry Professor of Old Testament, Emeritus, at Andover Newton Theological School in Newton, Massachusetts. Continue reading
Each of the Gospels has features about it I love. Like many Christians my idea of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is a mixed-upped conflation in my mind of all four Gospels.
When I started studying the Bible as a young man I began noticing how each Gospel tells the story in a somewhat different way, and something about that bothered me. I wondered, “Where they differ what is the truth of the story?”
One of my teachers helped me with this by having me imagine a beloved mother with four children, and upon her death each child wrote a remembrance of her. Each child’s remembrance of their mother would be different, but they would all be true.
Another helpful analogy I heard was that the Gospel is like a diamond, when you turn the diamond the light catches different facets of the precious stone. Each of the four Gospels is a different facet of the one Gospel of Jesus Christ.
It was in the Christmas story where I first noticed the differences in the several Gospels. Mark and John say nothing about the birth of Jesus. Only in Matthew do we hear about the visit of the Magi, their meeting with Herod and his slaughter of the innocents, and Mary and Joseph’s flight to Egypt.
But it is especially Luke we think of most often at Christmas time. Only Luke has the annunciations to Elizabeth and Mary, Mary’s Magnificat, and only in Luke do we have the choir of angels addressing the shepherds.
And so these early chapters of Luke might be a good place for me to start to tell you what I especially love about Luke. Continue reading
My teacher, mentor, colleague, friend and Berkshire neighbor Max Stackhouse, one of the primary founders of Public Theology, will be celebrated at our church in Stockbridge on Sunday. (see flyer below)
Dr. Scott Paeth, one of the editors of a new book of Max’s writings, Shaping Public Theology (Eerdmans, 2014) will give a presentation after morning worship.
Several years ago I posted on Max’s “God and Globalization.” You can find that here. In Max’s body of writings he has persistently challenged the dominate economic view of society (whether capitalist or socialist) as reductionist.For example, here is an excerpt from a letter he sent us back in 2009:
The economies in each area (of his several travels in the world) have some things in common, such as whether people have little or much, they want more, and in all contexts the laws of supply and demand operate. But, what people want more of and why they want what they want, and what they are able to supply and what they demand for what reasons are quite different. These things differ according to their view of and experiences in family life, political power, legal systems, educational opportunities, medical conditions and technological capabilities. In other words, economics is less an independent cause in social stability or change, than a result of the cultural and civilizational fabric. And, here is the main point, these are all deeply influenced by the dominant religion as shaped by the professional leaders of that religion — the clergy, intellectuals, theologians, and charismatic leaders who appeal to the core of the faith and relate it to the social realities the civilization faces. Under the influence of the secularization hypothesis, religion is a by-product of economic (and psychological) factors. (For the whole letter go here.)
If you are in the area join us for this celebration of Max and his important contributions to Public Theology:
In an article in today’s New York Times, “Basic Religion Test Stumps Many Americans,” Laurie Goodstein reports that Americans scored poorly in a test of basic knowledge about religion, according to a new Pew poll. This will not be news to any clergy, although she writes, “Clergy members who are concerned that their congregants know little about the essentials of their own faith will no doubt be appalled by some of these findings:
- Fifty-three percent of Protestants could not identify Martin Luther as the man who started the Protestant Reformation.
- Forty-five percent of Catholics did not know that their church teaches that the consecrated bread and wine in holy communion are not merely symbols, but actually become the body and blood of Christ.
- Forty-three percent of Jews did not know that Maimonides, one of the foremost rabbinical authorities and philosophers, was Jewish.”
Appalled, yes, surprised, no! I can’t imagine any members of the clergy who aren’t well aware of the ignorance of most people about religion. One of the biggest perennial tasks of local religious leaders is teaching their congregants about the basic tenets of their own faith, not even to mention other’s.
And preachers are well aware that they have to fill in a great deal of background for their listeners to have a context to understand even the most well-known biblical stories.
This lack of knowledge is not just a feature of the uneducated. I have known very intelligent professional people with Ivy League educations who were biblically and theologically illiterate.
My own passion for what I call “remedial catechesis for adults” led to my writing A Course in Basic Christianity. You can learn what it is about and how to get it here.