Virginia Stem Owens
Our church is studying the Sermon on the Mount this fall, from Matthew 5-7. In this past week’s sermon, one of our associate pastors, Rich Sylvester, found an essay by Virginia Stem Owens, an English professor who was teaching a class at Texas A&M University, 25 years ago. When Owens asked her students to read the Sermon on the Mount, she was a bit stunned by the written responses of her students:
- “I had expected them to have at least a nodding acquaintance with the reading and to express a modicum of piety in their written responses. After all, Texas has always been considered at least marginally part of the Bible Belt.The first paper I picked up began, “In my opinion religion is one big hoax.” I was mildly surprised since this came from a student who had never expressed a single iconoclastic notion the entire semester. I glanced at the opening sentence of the next paper: “There is an old saying that ‘you shouldn’t believe everything you read’ and it applies in this case.”
Owens realized that very few students had ever read the Sermon on the Mount before. Not only that, whether her students were familiar with the Bible or not, the consensus of the class was that they found the sermon to be quite offensive. Blogger Andy Naselli posted a copy of Owens’ paper online. It is worth reading over and praying over.
HT: Andy Naselli
A hundred years prior to Martin Luther, John Hus was a late 14th century Czech priest championing the principles of the Reformation. However, unlike Luther, John Hus, in 1415, was burned at the stake for his beliefs. What motivated John Hus to put his life on the line? A fairly recent film, John Hus: A Journey of No Return, produced in the Czech Republic, and dubbed into English, tells the story. In 1999, Pope John Paul II formally apologized to the Czech people for the “cruel death” inflicted upon Hus at the Council of Constance.
Here is the teaser trailer for the film.
Martin Luther (1483-1546), by Cranach (credit: Wikipedia). “Imputation” was the core theological concept behind Luther’s thinking. So then, what is “imputation?”
Imputation. Have you ever heard of that word? We do not use it in normal conversation. But in the 16th century, imputation became a battleground idea for the Reformation. This crucial theological concept helps us think through a true understanding of the Gospel, even today.
Theologian Michael Horton, one of the scholars interviewed in the film documentary This Changed Everything, about the Reformation, likens imputation to a cooking analogy. If you try to make chocolate chip cookies, but leave out the chocolate chips, then you have pretty much left out the main ingredient. Likewise, many Protestants would argue that if you talk about the Gospel, but leave out imputation, then you end up with a chocolate-less cookie. Before we get at the definition of imputation, let us see why this might be so important. Continue reading
Not having grown up in the Roman Catholic tradition, I was always puzzled by the whole idea of mortal versus venial sins. What is all of that about, and where is it in the Bible, (or is it)?
Well, it all stems back to one of the more difficult passages in the Bible to interpret:
- If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life—to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that does not lead to death. (I John 5:16-17 ESV)
Bible scholars have been scratching their heads for hundreds of years on this one. Who is his “brother?” What are some examples of the different types of “sin“? What is meant by “death?” In other words, what in the world is John talking about here?
Spiritual Anxiety: Mortal vs. Venial Sins