Generous Orthodoxy  

Monday, February 19, 2007

Atheist argument meets its match

For a highly sophisticated, deft demolition of Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion, see the January 11 issue of The New York Review of Books. The reviewer is a professor of biology. Link:

Sunday, February 11, 2007

First Corinthians 13 to the rescue

"Modern Love" column in The New York Times, February 11, 2007
by Daniel Jones

Each year, as [Valentine's Day] nears when we are expected to celebrate (or at least positively spin) the current state of our romantic lives, people start asking me what I, as the editor of this column, have learned about love. Surely, they assume, I’ve learned something from spending my days immersed in strangers’ relationship stories. But whenever this seeming softball of a question comes hurtling at me, my mind goes blank.

In need of an answer, I sift through hundreds of essays submitted for the column, searching for trends, clues, even a measly tip or two.... I read cheery stories of those who found love only after giving up, and darker tales of philandering husbands, rebellious children, stalking lovers, flirtatious doctors and baffling breakups.

In these accounts I found exactly one common thread: Wisdom about love is sorely lacking. Over the millennia we Homo sapiens, with our ever-evolving intelligence and sensibilities, have made great strides on many fronts (human rights! space travel!), but when it comes to love, we don’t seem to evolve so much as revolve.

Isn't this a perfect introduction to the thirteenth chapter of I Corinthians? There has never been "wisdom about love" to equal it. We just need to remember that the name "Jesus" can be substituted for the word agape at every point in the famous chapter. Since human beings left to themselves revolve rather than evolve (what a nifty description of our sinful condition!), it was necessary for Emmanu-el to rewrite the story of love in his own life and death and bring us along with him into the divine life of perfect love (the doctrine of recapitulation--see Romans 6 on baptism).

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Powerful nutrients for Lenten preaching

After reflecting upon the two episodes in Matthew 22:15-33 (the question about Caesar and the challenge from the Sadducees), N. T. (Tom) Wright says this:

"...We find Jesus, on the way to the cross, drawing together upon himself the great evils of the world, the imperial systems with their financial demands, and the great hopes of the world, hopes for God to release the slaves, to raise the dead, to set the world to rights. The scriptures give us the grounding for this hope: the power of God assures us that it will come. That message provides both the deeply personal meaning of Holy Week for each one of us and the deeply political meaning for today in a world that still groans under the slavery of the empire's financial demands. But the way to the Resurrection is precisely through death, the death which Caesar demands as the price for declaring a different empire, the death through which Jesus offers to God that which is God's, his own life, his own obedience, his own Image."

(from The Scriptures, the Cross, and the Power of God--Westminster John Knox, 2006) Emphasis added.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

A bright star in the firmament

The ever-valuable Peter Steinfels, who writes twice a month on Saturday for The New York Times (but they have made him almost impossible to find on their web site) contributes this about a little-known righteous Gentile of the Holocaust:

Jews killing Christ??

An email to me from The Rev. Peter Hoytema:

I'm not sure if you saw it, but today's (February 1) front page of USA Today had a little article that reported a recent decision made in your home state of Virginia. Here are some snippets from the article, with direct quotes appearing in italics:

Virginia moved forward on Wednesday to apologize for slavery, something no president or legislature has done. The Virginia House Rules Committee unanimously approved a measure that expresses "profound regret" for the state's role in the slave trade and other injustices against African-Americans and Native Americans.

The most troubling part of the piece appears at the end: The Virginia effort to apologize for slavery stirred controversy last month. Del. Frank Hargrove, Sr., a white Republican, told The Daily Progress in Charlottesville that blacks "should get over" slavery instead of seeking a formal apology from the state. He asked, "Are we going to force the Jews to apologize for killing Christ?" Hargrove voted for the revised measure because, he said, it expresses regret "without apologizing for anything."

The headline for this article reads, Virginia moves to apologize for slavery, but what good is an apology that expresses regret without apologizing for anything? Hargrove is articulating the widely held and tacitly assumed view on repentance: regret is sufficient, remorse is unnecessary. You can have conversion without change. The Biblical view of repentance, expressed most clearly in the penitential psalms, differs greatly from this. You can't blame Frank Hargrove for not knowing that. His prejudiced view on the culpability of all Jewish people for the death of Jesus clearly betrays his ignorance of the general teachings of Scripture.
After reading my friend's letter, I went to the Internet and learned that this matter is being hotly debated in The Washington Post. I have written to the Post as follows:

To the editor:

Frank Hargrove, Sr.'s comments about slavery and Jews are revolting on many levels, but the particular accusation that Jews killed Christ should be repudiated in no uncertain terms. The world should hear Christians speaking out about this. A basic tenet of our faith is the conviction that Jesus Christ died for the sins of the entire human race without distinction, as St. Paul clearly taught. The idea that "the Jews" killed Christ is not only unbiblical but also directly contradictory to the liturgy of Palm Sunday, where entire congregations of mostly Gentile Christians acknowledge their complicity by calling out, "Crucify him!"

Signed: The Rev. Fleming Rutledge

I have also written a separate email to Del. Hargrove. Seems to me it would be a good thing if Christian clergy and lay people bombarded Del. Hargrove’s office with emails on this subject. His email address is: