Reprinted from Christmas Card Theology, originally published Dec. 5, 2009.
My wife and I usually send out cards that have some relevance to scripture. I’d rather have an idealized manger scene or white baby Jesus than snowy villages or generic “holiday” wishes. This card I really appreciate. As names of God go this is actually a pretty short list. It’s not exhaustive for the names of Jesus but does a good job. Consider the Isaiah 9 prophecy: His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Wait, the Son of God will be called Everlasting Father? That’s the beauty of the Trinity. You can’t think of God as three, He is one God manifest as three persons. But the Son and the Father are one. He was before all things. The Father or the Son? Yes.
Okay, I’m playing word games. Jesus is simply too much to grasp. He is the good shepherd and at the same time the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world. He is the bread of life and the fountain of living water. He is the great High Priest and also the sacrifice. He describes himself to his disciples as their Lord, friend and brother. The reason we have so many symbols and analogies is that in our finite capacity for understanding we cannot fathom God. His love and mercy are infinite. Jesus left his throne in glory and descended to our condition. He did not simply visit the earth but was born in human flesh. He was not born into wealth or privilege but as a Jew. He was not even an important Jew, but the offspring of an unwed mother betrothed to a carpenter. He was born in less than a barn, wrapped in rags and laid in a feed trough. Can you honestly say you understand that? Neither can I.
And all this for what? So that 33 years later he could hang on the cross and die the excruciating death of a Roman prisoner of state. The Son of God, maker of Heaven and earth, King of kings and Lord of lords, entered the world into filth and misery only to be executed as a criminal and hurriedly buried in a borrowed tomb. Why? Because he loved you and I while we were still unlovable. When we could not come to God he came here, in such a manner, for us.
Love the sinner but hate the sin, or as Gandhi wrote in his autobiography “hate the sin and not the sinner.” It has become an overused and sometimes debated cliche but where did it come from? According to Fr. Vincent Serpa at Catholic Answers it was Saint Augustine. In 424 he wrote Cum dilectione hominum et odio vitiorum, which translates roughly to “With love for mankind and hatred of sins.” But a common response these days is that Christ never said those words or that it’s not in the Bible. That response is the topic I wish to take up.
There is no single verse of scripture that we can site by chapter and verse number that says love the sinner, hate the sin. You will also not find the word trinity in the Bible yet most Christians believe in it. We use the word trinity to describe the triune nature of God who manifests himself in three persons, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. There is no verse of scripture that says abortion is morally wrong but when seeking the counsel of God’s Word we find many references to the value of human life, that we are made in God’s image, and commandments to not commit murder. The Bible does not say, in so many words, to not look at internet porn but imagine someone arguing with their pastor or Sunday School teacher that it’s okay because the Bible doesn’t say anything about it.
Critics of the Creation Museum say that it presents a “pseudoscientific” young earth creationist view of the origins of the earth and universe “even though scientific evidence shows the Earth is about 4.5 billion years old and the Universe about 13.8 billion years old.” I hate taking a side in this fight. My argument is that the age of the earth is one of the least important details one can hope to glean from a study of scripture (and in point of fact the Bible does not say how old the earth is).
I can empathize with Ken Ham’s motives for organizing Answers in Genesis and desiring to build a Creation Museum. As a science teacher in the 1970’s, Ham would take his students on field trips to places like museums of natural history. While there is much to learn about archeology and anthropology from such a museum visit, evolutionary processes and geologic time scales are accepted as fact without question. Ham moved from Australia to the United States where the population of conservative Christians is much higher and began Answers in Genesis in a small storefront office. The idea of a creationist museum was in the back of his mind for a long time. Continue reading →
Hurricane Matthew is about to come along the southeast coast of the United States. I was watching a guy on the news talk about what is and is not covered by various types of insurance. Some people find out after the fact, for example, that flood damage is not covered by a typical homeowner’s policy and you must specifically purchase flood insurance. Wind damage and other “acts of God” may be included or excluded in the fine print of the policy documents. And that statement got me to thinking. Continue reading →
I was thinking about posting to Facebook the pastor appreciation lunch coming up at our church. My wife and I have been there for two years so not only is October pastor appreciation month but it also corresponds to our service anniversary. It’s an exaggeration to say that “all my friends are church pastors” but many of them are. It makes sense to form working relationships that often turn into friendship with people in the same line of work. No matter what vocation one is in, other guys doing the same job will automatically have a lot in common. And the friends I have that are not pastors are church people; they teach Sunday School, serve as deacons, work in the sound and projection booth, etc. Continue reading →
My critics might say that the only thing The Master’s Table does anymore is a Happy Monday post once a week. I would argue that a bi-vocational pastor working a Mon – Fri job and preaching twice on Sunday is doing pretty good to get out a weekly post on a regular basis. Every Monday for 200+ weeks in a row? Woo-hoo!