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Our Lady of Kibeho

From William and Mary’s production of Our Lady of Kibeho

Are apparitions of Mary real? What do they signify?

When I viewed a recent College of William and Mary theatrical production of Our Lady of Kibeho, written by Katori Hall, I pondered these questions. Based on a true story, in 1981, there were reports of at least three girls in a Rwandan Catholic school, who all claimed to have received visitations from the Virgin Mary. At first, these visions were positive in character, emphasizing the love of God. But soon, the visions turned dark, depicting a future time when the land of Rwanda would become killing fields, overwhelmed with violence. The visions were warning the people to repent. Initial skepticism of these visions eventually gave way to fear.

Thirteen years later, in 1994, Rwanda descended into mass genocide, where somewhere between 500,000 and 1,000,000 Tutsi’s were murdered by Hutu tribes people, which was soon followed by reprisals and civil war. The 2004 film, Hotel Rwanda, tells the story of these atrocities. Some say that the visitations of Our Lady of Kibeho were prophetic warnings that predicted this immense human tragedy. In 2001, a local Roman Catholic bishop deemed these Marian apparitions to be authentic.

Immaculée Ilibagiza, whose family was killed during the genocide, survived this ordeal, hiding in a pastor’s bathroom, along with several other women, for weeks. Ilibagiza was a speaker at the Bill Hybel’s Global Leadership Summit, that our church, Williamsburg Community Chapel, satellite hosted, this past summer. Ilibagiza, herself a Roman Catholic, travels the world, sharing her story, the challenge of forgiveness, and the story of the Catholic school girls involved with the Our Lady of Kibeho visitations.

As a Protestant evangelical, affirming the principle of sola scriptura, I have my doubts about the authenticity of visitations by the Virgin Mary. I see nothing in the Bible that would lead us to expect the Mother of Jesus to make visionary appearances to Christians in our day and age. To claim such apparitions to be authentic must somehow account for that fact that there are no such visitations to Protestant Christians, at least to my knowledge.

Nevertheless, these African girls did see something. I know that some Protestant Christians might think of these extraordinary experiences as being something demonic, but given the message of the visitations, a more moderate and positive view makes more sense. The call to the Rwandan people to repent of their racism was prophetic, and entirely consistent with the teaching of the Scriptures.  It is sadly horrible to think that so many people of Rwanda, many who called themselves Christians, were unable to hear and obey that call to repentance.

But such a warning should not be limited to Rwandans.  Jeremiah 17:9 points to the problem that all humans have, and not just the Rwandans involved in perpetrating the genocide: “The heart is deceitful above all things,and desperately sick; who can understand it?” I may not be able to fully explain the claims of the Marian apparitions, but I can affirm the teaching of the Scriptures that calls sinful humanity to repentance.

William and Mary’s production of Our Lady of Kibeho was an A+, in my view. If you ever have the opportunity to see Our Lady of Kibeho, you should do so, even considering the fact that the subject matter is indeed disturbing. The following two videos flesh out some of the stories I highlight here, first a three-minute interview with the William and Mary actors, explaining why the story of Our Lady of Kibeho needs to be told, followed by a twelve-minute CBS interview with Immaculée Ilibagiza.

 


Why People Hate the Sermon on the Mount (Virginia Stem Owens)

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


Eric Metaxas on Martin Luther

 

October, 2017 is a big month for Christians, as we remember the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s nailing of the Ninety-Five Theses to a Wittenberg church door, kickstarting the Protestant Reformation.  In a secular world, where spiritual topics are often taboo, talk of Martin Luther can be a great conversation starter for Protestants, Roman Catholics, and Eastern Orthodox… even with unbelieving friends, co-workers and family members. Luther is big everywhere. Even though Germany is mostly nominally Christian now, Luther is still recognized as a national hero. For Westerners in general, Luther is a prominent historical personality, regardless of one’s religious identification (or lack thereof).

But, if you are clueless about Martin Luther, where do you start to learn more?

Eric Metaxas is a popular Christian author and talk show host. He is a type of public intellectual, who keeps things down on “the bottom shelf.” Plus, he is funny. As author of bestselling books on William Wilberforce and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Eric Metaxas writes in a very accessible style. His latest book, Martin Luther: The Man Who Rediscovered God and Changed the World, would be a good introduction to those who look upon the Protestant Reformation as an unfamiliar, foreign country. Though I do not agree with everything Metaxas writes, his popularization of scholarly research is nevertheless very engaging.

Roland Bainton’s 1950s classic, Here I Stand, is still my favorite biography on Luther. But if I get a chance to dip into Metaxas’ new book, I might revise that. In the following video, Eric Metaxas, who comes from an Eastern Orthodox background, gives a talk summarizing his new book on Luther, at a recent National Religious Broadcaster’s meeting. As Metaxas says, Luther “rediscovered God and changed the world.” For a cheery take on Luther, please enjoy!

 


John Hus: A Journey of No Return

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.


Imputation: The Chocolate Chips in Luther’s Theological Cookie

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


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