Random Thoughts from a Western Adventure

Earlier this year, my family embarked on an excursion to the wild western part of our great nation, where we were summoned for my brother’s wedding. Going for drives—especially long ones—is something that I rather enjoy, even with an infant in tow (though I should note she has always been quite generous with her patience when locked in her car seat for extended periods of time). Thus, we decided to extend our wedding trip and spend a few days taking in some of what California, Nevada, and Arizona had to offer. Continue reading

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Why “This” New Testament?

I am often asked some variation of “Where did we get the New Testament?” or “Why are these specific books included in the New Testament?” In conjunction with yesterday’s post on the Origins of the New Testament, today’s post seeks to address why the New Testament includes the writings which it contains.

BibleMost of us take for granted the twenty-seven books that make up the New Testament, but this was not always the case. It was not uncommon in the ancient world for there to be different books included in Christian collections of writings. Such works as the Letters of Clement, Epistle of Barnabas, and Shepherd of Hermas are included in such noteworthy and important manuscripts as Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Alexandrinus. For many years the Eastern and Western Churches debated both the inclusion of Hebrews and Revelation. As recently as the 16th century and the Protestant Reformation, there were serious doubts about the works to be included in the New Testament. Of these, Martin Luther’s objections to Hebrews, James, Jude, and the Apocalypse of John (Revelation) were so severe that he placed them in an addendum to his German New Testament. Some contemporary Christian Churches in the ancient parts of the world (mostly the Middle East) still have New Testament canons that differ from the standard twenty-seven book canon of the “Orthodox” (Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Protestant). Obviously several factors had to influence why certain writings were included in the New Testament. But what were they? Continue reading

Religious Secularity

This post is part of an ongoing series investigating “Conceptions of the Ultimate”, the ways in which the world religious approach and understand the Divine. Today’s post engages a chapter of Mark C. Taylor’s work, After God.

Map of the InternetIn this reflection, I want to focus on Taylor’s chapter “Religious Secularity,” specifically his discussion of the doctrine of the Trinity and its implications for understanding Protestant theology’s impact on the formation of the “secular” West. From the perspective of one having been trained in theological method and the history of the doctrine of the Trinity, there are a number of points that Taylor draws out in his discussion worthy of consideration. First, Taylor’s relation of the Trinitarian scheme to visions of the “interplay between God, self, and world” is fundamentally positive, and would seem to serve as an excellent starting point for Taylor’s constructive theological claims for the 21st century (139). This tri-part reality he effectively ties into conceptions of “creative mergence” (later developed by Hegel) as the source of appropriate theologies of nature, history, and culture (142). Continue reading

Endo’s Silence

Silence, EndoInsights from historical fiction are often intended to make readers pause for careful consideration, especially so with Shasaka Endo’s Silence, the account of a Christians amidst the persecutions of 16th century Japan. Central to this narrative is Endo’s portrayal of the conflict between Eastern and Western civilizations, especially as that conflict impacted Christianity. The narrative traces the journey of Portuguese Jesuit Sebastian Rodrigues to Macao and then Japan, his interactions with Japanese Christians, his confrontation with the apostate Christovao Ferreira, and his eventual capitulation to the tactics of the magistrate Inoue, developing a number of theological concerns along the way. In this essay, we examine several of these, including Rodrigues’ relationship with Kichijiro, Endo’s use of the term “silence,” the co-opting of the Biblical narrative, and the conflict between East and West as demonstrated through the “swamp of Japan.” Through engagement with these considerations, I argue that central to Endo’s perspective is the centrality of a Christian love that seeks to transcend the cultural boundaries of East and West. Continue reading

Medieval Misconceptions

One of the problems of living in an age saturated with knowledge (or at least the claims to knowledge that circulate the portions of the internet that I seem to inhabit) is constantly running into misconceptions about the history of Christianity, especially about the Medieval Age. As we all probably know from personal experience, it’s hard to have a meaningful conversation with someone who doesn’t speak the same language as you. Similarly, it’s difficult to have an intelligent conversation with someone who begins their thinking with a different set of historical assumptions than yourself. So today I’ve outlined ten of the most pervasive misconceptions about Church History as a means of helping adjust the historical basis from which have conversations about faith. These are misconceptions from every era of Church History, but you’ll note that misconceptions about the medieval period are especially prevalent.

Luther Poting 95 Theses1. Church history began with Martin Luther. Or at least, nothing good happened between the death of the Apostle John and Luther’s nailing the Ninety-Five Theses to the Wittenburg church door. The biggest misconception about Church History is that there isn’t Church History, that there haven’t been Christians throughout the world for thousands of years or that there was no “true Christianity” between the Apostles and the beginning of our preferred denomination or church. Continue reading