understanding


Pope Benedict XVI’s second encyclical, Saved In Hope, (“Spe Salvi” in Latin) takes its title from St. Paul, who wrote, “In hope we have been saved”.

Love and Hope are closely related in the spiritual life. Love of God involves hope or trust in God. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “The virtue of hope responds to the aspiration to happiness which God has placed in the heart of every man”.

Hope enables us to look to the next life, but it also inspires and purifies our actions in this life. Pope Benedict considers modern philosophies and the challenges of faith today in light of the virtue of hope.

“Confronted by today’s changing and complex panorama, the virtue of hope is subject to harsh trials in the community of believers. For this very reason, we must be apostles who are filled with hope and joyful trust in God’s promises. In contemporary society, which shows such visible signs of secularism, we must not give in to despair.” — Pope Benedict XVI

Related post: The Story of Man’s Glory

Another Great Read for the New Year!

I first read this article in January of 1997, in First Things magazine. I immediately knew that Neil Postman, the author, had said some things I too had discovered and that I wanted to bookmark. I knew that E4Unity blog (that was still in embryo at the time) would want to review this at least once a year.

Science & The Story that we Need

But in the end, science does not provide the answers most of us require. Its story of our origins and of our end is, to say the least, unsatisfactory. To the question, “How did it all begin?”, science answers, “Probably by an accident.” To the question, “How will it all end?”, science answers, “Probably by an accident.” And to many people, the accidental life is not worth living. Moreover, the science-god has no answer to the question, “Why are we here?” and, to the question, “What moral instructions do you give us?”, the science-god maintains silence. It places itself at the service of both the beneficent and the cruel, and its grand moral impartiality, if not indifference, makes it, in the end, no god at all.

Into the breach has come still another contender—the offspring of the science-god—the great god of technology. This is a wondrous and energetic story which, with greater clarity than its parent, offers us a vision of paradise. Whereas the science-god speaks to us of both understanding and power, the technology-god speaks only of power. It refutes the promise of Christianity that heaven is a posthumous reward. It offers convenience, efficiency, and prosperity here and now; and it offers its benefits to all, the rich as well as the poor, as does Christianity.

To Read entire article at First Things

Rare because most college students don’t get many letters these days; they get e-mails and tweets. Rare because what’s being advocated in this letter by Stanley Hauerwas  is the disciplined use of the mind for the Christian college student.

Christ’s call on you as a student is a calling to meet the needs of the Church, both for its own life and the life of the world. The Resurrection of Jesus, Wilken suggests, is not only the central fact of Christian worship but also the ground of all Christian thinking “about God, about human beings, about the world and history.” Somebody needs to do that thinking—and that means you.

Don’t underestimate how much the Church needs your mind. Remember your Bible-study class? Christians read Isaiah’s prophecy of a suffering servant as pointing to Christ. That seems obvious, but it’s not; or at least it wasn’t obvious to the Ethiopian eunuch to whom the Lord sent Philip to explain things. Christ is written everywhere, not only in the prophecies of the Old Testament but also in the pages of history and in the book of nature. The Church has been explaining, interpreting, and illuminating ever since it began. It takes an educated mind to do the Church’s work of thinking about and interpreting the world in light of Christ. Physics, sociology, French literary theory: All these and more—in fact, everything you study in college—is bathed in the light of Christ. It takes the eyes of faith to see that light, and it takes an educated mind to understand and articulate it. ( from First Things, November issue)

Surveys have been telling the Christian Church for years, that they are losing large numbers of their young people during the college years. Could it be that many have not been prepared to use their minds about the really big issues of life?

I now have three of fifteen grandchildren in College and University and I can personally tell you they are more than capable of thinking about serious issues. Why don’t we treat them more like rational beings instead of entertaining them with games and food? Read the entire letter by Stanley Hauerwas, a long-time professor at Duke and formerly of Notre Dame. This is exactly the challenge that the Church and Christian parents should be preparing their young disciples for in addition to everything else.

Purdue University

Thinking of recent posts, this is the call to college students to be “radical disciples” in the context of American universities.

Read the entire letter and the quote from Robert Lewis Wilken’s “The Spirit of Early Christian Thought“.

Related post (2009) “Seize the moment

Don’t want to leave out our newest college student @

Advocacy sometimes means getting off the fence!

You know by now that I am a passionate advocate for human rights which include dignity and justice. I don’t however put my name on very many public petitions. But this one I felt needed my participation, especially in light of so many other conflicting statements from we Christians regarding healthcare.

Here is what I signed today-

As a Christian, I believe my faith calls me to view all people, regardless of citizenship status, as made in the “image of God” and deserving of respect; to show compassion for the stranger and love and mercy for my neighbor; and to balance the rule of law with the call to oppose unjust laws and systems when they violate human dignity.

These biblical principles compel me to support immigration reform legislation that is consistent with humanitarian values, supports families, provides a pathway to citizenship for immigrant workers already in the U.S., expands legal avenues for workers to enter the U.S. with their rights and due process fully protected, and examines solutions to address the root causes of migration.

I believe the current U.S. immigration system is broken and reform is necessary. I call on Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform with the above elements by the end of this year.

Signed by: John Paul Todd, Berea, Kentucky

Your Church Is Too Small: why unity in Christ’s mission is vital to the future of the church. (Zondervan) 2010

A personal review of this new book on the 130th anniversary of the birth of my maternal grandfather, Henry Thomas Young. Personal, because I need to admit upfront that the vision that is so clearly and concisely stated of the Christian church as she has entered the third millenium, the vision of ACT3 is the same vision behind E4Unity Institute.      

John H. Armstrong, Director ACT3

The author has placed his life-journey out on the table for all to see. In doing so, he shows us what a passion for Jesus Christ, his church, and the divine mission they are on together in this present age must look like for the eternal blessing of the nations.

My personal sense is that perhaps the best way to describe what we have in this book is a “handbook for observing the unity of the church” in her relationship to the Christ of God. John Armstrong has gone to great lengths to tell us exactly where we are and where we have come from and remind us who we are and what we have been called to both be and do on planet earth. This is the reason, he tells us, why he wrote this book and why he believes that the greatest scandal of all is our disunity before our neighbors and our watching world.

Handbook for promoting Unity

Here is a very wise collection of the realities of our divisions set in the larger context of the vision of  our oneness in Christ and his mission. It’s obvious that John has discovered for himself something of the incredible bigness and largeness of the Christian church. With the help of a glossary of terms we will need to understand the vision, the author takes us through a personal narrative in a helpful and logical progression for the reader to follow.

Beginning with Jesus prayer for our unity (John 17:20-23), John gets into the heart of the issues involved: love-our greatest apologetic, the essential nature of the church (four classical marks), all the while stressing Christ alone as the Biblical focus. The reader is at once aware that the author is deeply involved with a much larger conversation and celebration than what most of us are accustomed to. He is listening to a host of others from the first century church to the contemporary one. He is conversing with brothers and sisters from multiple traditions and denominations such as Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, Pentecostal, and of course his own Reformed tradition.

He tells us about those who have been some of the helpers along his journey to seeing the vision of unity. Men like J.I.Packer, Francis Schaeffer, and Leslie Newbigin. John is honest with us about how hard it was to begin to see the ecumenical movement of the twentieth century in positive terms. But he insists that the church will need all the wisdom and experience of the saints in previous generations to equipt us for the advance of the Christian gospel and the Kingdom of God that is now before us.

The one thing I probably liked most about this book is that it lifted my own heart to new levels of expectant hope in what God will yet do in and through the community of His exalted and beloved Son. I think he has nailed the major obstacles to “growing up into the fullness of Christ” together. These barriers are not really those outside the church but ones inside us all. In the very beginning he stresses that it is our own vision problem “our common penchant for placing limits on Christ’s church…”. One of the greatest challenges that confront us is that which John describes as “sectarianism”, or the evil that equates the one church with “our own narrow views of Christ’s body”. There is a brief but excellent treatment of this and the topic of “the true church” and this is one of those themes addressed directly on this blog. We simply cannot continue as we are- separated and disobedient to the clear imperatives of our Lord. There are answers for the one who seeks them and this is a good place to begin if you are not already wrestling with this part of the Biblical narrative.

I can think of no better way for every Christian to join the celebration of one-hundred years of world mission advances since the Edinburgh World Conference of 1910, than by making this book your handbook. For the last one hundred years have also seen the greatest labors toward true ecumenism that the church has seen since the earliest councils. Yes, John, unity is vital to our future. Thank you for your journey and the gift it represents to the churches of the twenty-first century.

p.s. Happy birthday grandfather. It is a joy to remember your own life vision and faithfulness to the New Covenant in Christ’s blood.

A matter of life and death

 Following our introduction of hell into the Lenten meditations, I can’t think of a better subject than that of the “provision of love” of the very God who is “angry”; the God who has prepared hell for the devil and his demons.

That in a nutshell is what the Cross of Jesus Christ is all about. That is what we must think of during this concentrated time called Lent. So how does the gift of life that is in Christ alone become ours? Here again, by lifting parts out of the Biblical narrative and out of their natural context, the Church of Jesus Christ continues to debate the “how-to”of escaping hell. This debate is so serious that the very symbol Christ gave us of our unity in Him, continues to be “a thorn in the flesh” to keep the churches from celebrating this sacrament together. And the watching world looks on amazed and amused.

Here is a brief look inside the Anglican discussion. It reminds me of a conference that Touchstone Magazine sponsored in 2001 on our “unity & the divisions” and why they must be sustained.

“In my preaching I have emphasized how much our service of Holy Communion stresses the Gospel message of Christ’s sacrifice, and also of the partaking/communion/fellowship we have with Him by receiving His life-giving Body and Blood. Our service emphasizes that we are celebrating a sacrament “generally necessary to salvation,”1 and that by faithful eating and drinking of it we have eternal life, feeding a future immortality that will be given to us by the Resurrected Christ when he comes on the Last Day. 2 In short, the emphasis of the Holy Communion service in Book of Common Prayer has everything to do with our salvation.” – Robert Hart

Read the full post and discussions,”Because He first Loved Us“.

I love and appreciate the ministry of Robert, but I would humbly submit to him and others, it is exactly because Christ and His Father loved us first that simply cannot remain divided before the watching world; especially over our different understandings/interpretations of the celebration of the Lord’s Table. We cannot and must not insist on the past luxury of remaining with those “just like us”; we must go forward to a “greater loyalty“(see earlier post).

Think Beyond the Labels!

I don’t usually plug commercials on my blog though I was sorely tempted by a couple of this year’s Superbowl ads. But this one I simply could not resist the temptation. It goes to the heart of my advocacy for unity and peace- we must learn to resist labeling and the evils that it can produce in how we approach our fellow beings.

Related post on PsychologyToday (Addiction in society)

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