Getting a week’s jump on Mardi Gras.

If I’m not mistaken, this is the best time of the year to bring up the whole problem the Christian faces in living in the world (old creation) while possessing eternal life in Christ which is the life of the new creation: The conflict between living in the spirit and living in the flesh and the never ending battle in this present evil age.

Saint Paul constantly wrote about this conflict of the Christian in all of his epistles and he referred to this old Adamic nature (life-style) in various ways. From just two chapters in the Roman letter come these terms: Old man,Old self, Body of sin, Slaves of sin, wretched man, and Body of death.

The spotlight on the Superbowl this year has become a spotlight on this central theme of the Christian life. First and foremost because of the convergence of two major factors: the New Orleans Saints are playing there for the first time in their franchise history, and the fact that they are doing so only one week before the Mardi Gras week-end. So its only natural (to the men of flesh) for the Saints to taste victory and think about stepping up the celebration by one week. I find all kind of ironies in this whole scene-not the least of which is the franchise name, “The Saints”.

Let me suggest that this is indeed the perfect time for American Christians to rediscover their basic identity in Christ in the light of the American culture. All of this has a great deal to do with the theme of unity which is advocated on this blog. It has a great deal to do with what has been called “the Great Christian Tradition” and it has a lot to do with the controversy raised this year about  those certain Superbowl ads. The latest issue of Touchstone Magazine  suggests just how serious these things are in America and have taken a stand on what they perceive are the critical issues they have with their STATE.

Has the State gone too far?

“On November 20, 2009, Orthodox, Catholic, and Evangelical leaders released the Manhattan Declaration at a press conference in Washington, D.C. Among the 148 original signatories are fourteen Roman Catholic bishops, two Eastern Orthodox bishops, and Evangelical leaders from various ministries, churches, seminaries, and colleges, many quite well known, including J. I. Packer, Charles Colson, and James Dobson. The coalition of signatories is the strongest expression yet seen in this country of the new ecumenism of Christians dedicated to the Great Tradition.”

(Touchstone Magazine- “The Audacity of the State“.

I do not agree with all said in this issue-in fact I would want to contend that “the strongest expression…of the new ecumenism of Christians dedicated to the Great Tradition” is not in fact these issues involving the so called culture-wars, but rather what myself and others are calling the Missional-ecumenism. But the two agendas are in fact related and the Christians in America cannot get on with their God-given mission in the world without dealing with the question of unity and life in the Spirit, not in the flesh.

Read the Manhattan Declaration

Related post: A Script to Live by

Richard Dawkins and his battle for Truth.

We have all heard about Richard and also about those who offended by his writings. But perhaps we have never heard directly from the man himself. Where was he born and raised? What is he actually trying to accomplish? Here’s a brief interview that I found very enlightening to begin the new year- in his own words. Note the source of this interview, that also is very interesting.

An Amazing Revelation captured on film!

No, this time I’m not referring to the scandals of Wall Street or the multiple debacles of failed government both State and Federal, that we have been forced to view daily on the news in the last year. This time, I’m happy to be able to report on a much richer and far more uplifting project that is now ready for viewing about the real soul of the American people- including those we refer to as the “Native Americans”.

It’s all there; recorded for us marvelously in the epoch film-making of Ken Burns married to outstanding texts narrated by a rich assortment of eye witnesses from both the past and the present. It is the PBS production of “Our National Parks: America’s Best Idea”. Set to premiere on Sunday, this wonderful National treasure can be viewed on the internet in multiple clips that give us a sample of what it’s all about- our national soul; touching the living spirits of the land and the ancestors that have gone ahead before us. Don’t settle for this one clip! Press on to view as many as you can emotionally stand. And remember the theme: This land belongs to YOU and ME, this great land which is AMERICA.


I believe that active members of every faith tradition recognize the reality of the “Human Tragedy”, and are trying to do all they can to heal it on behalf of the race. If you will invest eight and one half minutes to view this clip from the Broadway production of “Dr. Jekyll and Mr.Hyde”, you will understand why I say this.

There are many things included in the script, that as a Christian, I can perfectly relate to and I think that will be true of those from other faith traditions. Here is a sterling example: “The true self is locked inside a facade of hypocrisy”. We cannot seem to extricate ourselves from this human condition, no matter what we do including in modern science and medicine, or with philosophy and religion, all super-charged now with the latest technology. I have come to the conclusion that our only hope has to come from “outside” the human race.

We shall all be changed, in the twinkling of an eye!” Yes, but how? The Biblical narrative has one answer, other faiths have different answers.

Neglecting the Greatest Gift

I want to continue the subject of the last post, which as you remember, was the concern voiced by internetmonk that an unhealthy emphasis on the Glory of God was having on “all things human”. I agreed with the spirit of that discussion, especially the confusion among Christians that is undermining our unity of calling and purpose in the world. And to me this is the real danger that indeed faces us today: the neglect of the great salvation/redemption which is the Biblical narrative.

I think the subject has everything to do with all that we have been finding as we have focused on the Apostle Paul and his unique contribution to that narrative, especially as he interprets what God really accomplished in the Christ Event, the cycle just celebrated with Advent, Passover, and Pentecost. We have seen in this “Year of Saint Paul” that nothing short of a new humanity in Christ, a humanity that would succeed where the old had “come short of the Glory of God” and could not please God in the flesh is the message of the Gospel of the grace of God.

Is that salvation only (exclusively) about a prepared place referred to as “heaven” beyond death, or is much more included involving “all things human” in this life, which directly relates to the life beyond? There is no doubt that the Biblical narrative is about the Glory of God as it is revealed progressively to the human race on planet earth in history. But that revelation is always in the context of that humanity and its history. God indeed wants to be known and worshipped as the only true God by his creation, especially humankind made in His own image and for that very purpose. And the meaning and quality of human life is in turn always related to the right relation to the True God- qualities like peace and harmony, blessing, or strife, conflict, and cursing.

So when we fail to keep these two essential parts of the whole narrative balanced, we are not only in serious danger of missing the purpose for which we were created but the purpose for which the Redeemer has fought and won the great battle for freeing us from our former bondage into “the glorious liberty of the Children of God”, as Paul says it. In fact this is the over-all vision that the Apostle lived with from the time that he was confronted on the Road to Damacus and later had as long as three years in the Syrian desert to think out.

“For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many Sons to glory, to make the author of their salvation perfect through sufferings.” (letter to the Hebrews 2:10)

God’s eternal plan involves the promise to make “all things new’; both a new earth and a new heaven. Thankfully there have always been those among us who have seen that the Glory of God is forever intertwined with His creation, humankind and the material creation. So internetmonk is raising a legitimate warning that we are not keeping the proper balance. Once again in this generation, as in those that have gone before, parts of the Body of Christ are speaking into this imbalance. Will we keep fighting oneanother from our own faith traditions precious heritage, or will we practice the UNITY of God’s New humanity in Christ and let every contribution be received which will result in the “Growing up into the fullness of the Body in Jesus Christ”? Will we finally grasp the full intent of God’s mighty once-for-all work of redemption when “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us”?

I intend to mention three major ways that this “seeking a holistic salvation” took within Christianity in the 20th century, as we continue this discussion. To wet our appetites I will simply introduce a phrase that I think we can look at from the past- CHRISTIAN HUMANISM.

A related essay- Lockerbie-Thinking Like A Christian.


spring-breakI am happy to announce that the first signs of spring  are showing up here in the bluegrass. Not the full blown spring mind you, but just enough to set off the break from the dull routine of winter. I wouldn’t live anywhere else.

The early spring bloomers are putting on a show, the trees are begining to show their buds and of course the birds that leave for the winter are back with their own special songs. The wife and I have already headed for the dirt piles and the flower beds. It all holds the promise of about three weeks of gorgeous surprises. By now you realize that spring break for us doesn’t mean the same thing as it did when we both in University. Now we wouldn’t even think of “going” somewhere else to celebrate the glad event.

Scripture readings from Saint Paul’s writings: Week 4

Wednesday – Heb 4   Be diligent to enter                                

ThursdayPhilip 3  Pressing toward the goal

 FridayPhilip 4  Rejoice Always

SaturdayRom 8  Grace and Duty of living by the Spirit               

Sunday Heb 8  The New Covenant                                               

MondayHeb 9  The Old is Obsolete                                              

TuesdayHeb 10  The High Priest over the House of God

More than ever, I am convinced of the wisdom, not only of nature’s own cycle of springtime & harvest, but of the churches spiritual cycle as well.


David Brooks and E.J.Dionne on Reinhold Niebuhr

Interview at Georgetown

I don’t know if you saw this or not, Krista Tippett’s interview last month at Georgetown. It was outstanding due first and foremost to the man they were discussing- Reinhold Niebuhr, one of America’s great theologians. And then there were the different faith traditions represented. And lastly, the amazing number of politicians in the last 40 years who were influenced by this man and his public ministry.

I have “Speaking of Faith” link over in the e4unity toolbag and I think you would enjoy listening to this entire program. I’ll add my own quote from the 1941 book, “The Nature and Destiny of Man”:

The general revelation of personal human experience, the sense of being confronted with a ‘wholly other’ at the edge of human consciousness, contains three elements, two of which are not too sharply defined, while the third is not defined at all. The first is the sense of reverence for a majesty and a dependence upon an ultimate source of being. The second is the sense of moral obligation laid upon one from beyond oneself and of moral unworthiness before a judge. The third, most problematic of the elements in religious experience, is the longing for forgiveness.

All three of these elements become more sharply defined as they gain the support of other forms of revelation. The first, the sense of dependence upon a reality greater and more ultimate than ourselves, gains the support of another form of ‘general’ revelation, the content of which is expressed in the concept of the Creator and the creation. Faith concludes that the same ‘Thou’ who confronts us in our personal experience is also the source and Creator of the whole world.

The second element in personal religion, the experience of judgment, gains support from the prophetic-Biblical concept of judgment in history. The whole of history is seen as a validation of the truth in personal experience that God stands over against us as our judge. The third element, the longing for reconciliation after this judgment …becomes the great issue of the Old Testament interpretation of life. The question is: is God merciful as well as just? And if He is merciful, how is His mercy related to His justice?

Because Christian faith believes the final answer to this ultimate question to be given in Christ, it regards the revelation in Christ a final revelation, beyond which there can be no further essential revelation. For this reason it speaks of Christ ‘as the express image of his person.’ Here the whole depth and mystery of the divine are finally revealed.”  (131,132-vol I, 1964 edition)

I think the Apostle Paul would very much be in agreement to these words. Niebuhr’s ministry in America spanded some very troubling times and challenges to people of faith. That’s why Krista’s assertion that Obama claims to have been influenced by his writings is of special interest here. David Brooks, a political analyst on the conservative side who is also Jewish, and E.J.Dionne, a writer for the Washington Post and a liberal, happens to be Roman Catholic. Both men share freely Niebuhr’s major emphasis on original sin in his analysis of the Nature and Destiny of the human family.

See also this 2005 program on the relevance of Niebuhr’s Theology






These are not your ordinary Dentists



First, some thirty years ago, there was this real neat Brazilian, named Haroldo.He was recommended highly by our neighbor, an old man who himself was a Dentist in Campinas, Sao Paulo,Brazil. Haroldo worked pretty  hard on a particularly bad tooth with major decay, and ended up putting in a cap that looked more like a “block”, in fact that’s what he called it in Portuguese-um bloco. After what was left of my tooth was cleaned and prepared, this bloco was put in place with some kind of cement. It has held for those thirty years, until yesterday.


Enter my present Dentist who I’ve known now for the best part of twenty years, Paul Wong. Paul is a near genius and a real gift from my heavenly Father, who knows me well enough to know I have a real problem with going to the Dentist, that dates back to my early years at the Dental College in Kansas City. Paul is a graduate of Berea College, and after he finished his graduate degrees, he returned to Berea to set up his practice in Berea and he’s been here ever since. He has made a massive contribution to the community over the years. Besides his degree in Dentistry, he also earned a PhD in one of the sciences. Paul was born in Borneo, of Chinese parents, who raised seventeen children. I can’t begin to tell you the respect and admiration I have for this great human being and his place in this world community of ours. And he makes annual trips to Malaysia to be involved in projects to save endangered species.


As I left his office today after he rebuilt the tooth that will later receive a crown, if I can find the money to pay for it, he gave me a very precious gift. I’ve known for several years that one of his brothers is also a Dentist. I am not going to tell you everything I now know about his brother, I want you to follow the link I will provide so that you can have the enjoyment, or should I say feast, of seeing this for yourself. His brother is a very good photographer, and since 1982, a student of scuba diving. He has published two books of his pictures, and I believe has come out with a third one featured on National Geographic. Paul gave me a copy of his brother’s book, ”Malaysia – Beneath the waves”, and I’m dying to share them with you. The pics are literally out of this world- they’re in the sea world. As you enjoy the samples on-line, I hope you will pause and give thanks for the humble parents that have given the world such precious gifts. Oh yes, the brothers name is Michael Patrick Wong, and did I mention his practice is in London? The love and respect he and his brother have for the creation can definitely be felt through his photography.


This link will take you to the end of the picture presentation but will allow you to read about two books and then go back to the beginning. Enjoy, courtesy of the Wongs from Borneo.