April 17, 2004

Today in Church History

Ok, actually tomorrow in church history, but I think that this is a VERY significant event, so maybe I'll even give it two days worth. I'll start tonight just in case I don't get a chance to blog tomorrow.

"Since your majesty and your lordships desire a simple reply, I will answer without horns and without teeth. Unless I am convicted by scripture and plain reason--I do not accept the authority of popes and councils for they have contradicted each other--my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise, God help me. Amen."

Yup, on this date in 1521, the Shot Heard Round Christendom. Martin Luther placed himself in grave danger of death because of his beliefs. A shot fired across the bow of a Catholic Church that had strayed. The opening salvo of the Protestant Reformation.

They had repercussions, to say the least. Frederick the Wise, who supported Luther for reasons as political as they were religious, became very nervous, worried that Scripture wouldn't support Luther after all. Others worried about civil war breaking out in Germany, since the Church and the State were so closely tied together. They waited for the Pope to send troops to bring Germany back into the fold. They brought their concerns to Luther, but he stood firm.

The official transcripts of Luther's trail do not contain these famous words, leading some scholars to doubt that they were ever said. They are certainly consistant with Luther's temperment, as anyone who has read his works can attest. They are also consistant with the attitude of the Reformers, and that of the Early Church. They should be ours.

I've noticed that there has been a recurring theme in some of the Today in Church History entries. That isn't entirely unintentional -- I think that the modern church has, in many ways, grown complacent. One of the things we need to learn from history is that God honors those who stand firm in their convictions, and who follow the leading of the Holy Spirit over the preferences of man. I get the events, along with a basic synopsis, at the Christian History Institute, so I'm not just picking and choosing events that go along with what I want to say. Maybe I just see a theme in history, and I'm going with that theme for a bit. My prayer is that, through the study of those who have gone on before, we can change the Church for the better, and make an impact on the world in the process.

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Godly Blogging

Reading here, which I do frequently, I realized I had missed this one. I probably skipped it thinking I wasn't going to start blogging. What a difference a few weeks can make, huh?

It's easy to just sit and type, freeform, sort of stream-of-consciousness. Venting by writing is one of the best ways to let off steam, and I've done it many times before. The nice thing about paper, of course, is that once you've vented, you can erase/shred/tear/flush/whatever everything you've just written. Once you send something into the ether of the Internet, though, it can be much more difficult.

Even five minutes after you post something, someone else can have already read it. Seven minutes after you post, then, is too late to realize that you messed up. I haven't run into anything while reading through my Blogroll that I thought was something that shouldn't have been said, but in reading random blogs, I certainly have.

Everyone should think about what they write and post to their blogs. This is no less true of Christians -- in fact, it may be more true. People love it when we mess up, when we say something that we should have only thought, or not even thought. Quotes can fly around the world faster than we can hit the delete key. Damage control is tough to do, because you often don't know everywhere that you've been quoted. And don't even get me started on being taken out of context.

I've decided that I'm going to treat this blog as I would anything I was doing in public for God. That means a lot of prayer will go into everything I say -- even the funny/stupid things. Maybe especially the funny/stupid things. Because you never know who's reading.

It could even be my sister (shudder).

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A Big Thank You to ...

First, the folks who have let me know (in various ways) what they thought of the new format. I'm putting the changes in place as we speak.

Also, you might have noticed the new graphic! Thanks to the folks atCRSN, who let me use the graphic off their church page. And NO, I'm not leaching bandwidth -- I put a copy of the picture over at my own site, which hasn't been updated in a pathetically long time.

More here later on, promise!!

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The Light Side

I've posted a lot of serious stuff on here. Time for some levity, but you have to go here to get it. I'm still laughing, and I have a feeling this will show up in my wife's 10th grade English classes sometime in the near future.

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Something to Chew On for a bit .....

I read this, and I almost literally saw red. We've gone out of our way to try and make this a secular conflict in Iraq, and now this.

Maybe we just need to bring back the Marines and send a band of militant Fundies of our own over there. I know a few on The Fighting Fundamentalist Forums that would solve a few problems in no time.

(BTW, if you head over there, say something nice to phoenix [me]).

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April 16, 2004

New Design!!!

Ok, this took a LOT longer than it should have, but I have an excuse. I haven't done anything with HTML in a LONG time, and I've never done CSS. Of course, if you look at the source, I STILL haven't done much with CSS, but I'm learning!

At least this isn't the same old Blogspot template that half of the Internet is using. I'm a little more distinctive now.

Let me know what you think!! Hopefully, more people will stick around and become regulars (I KNOW there are some regulars out there!!).

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April 15, 2004

A Book Meme .........

"The first task of self-education is not the reading of Plato, but the finding of twenty minutes in which you can devote yourself to thought, rather than to activity"
The Well-Educated Mind by Susan Wise Bauer

Follow the herd:

1. Grab the nearest book.
2. Open the book to page 23.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the text of the sentence in your blog along with these instructions.

via Thinklings

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What's coming up

I'm starting a study of the book of Mark either this weekend or the first of next week. I've attempted to do this a couple of times before, but I'm hoping that by blogging about what I learn each day, I'll have a bit more accountability.
I'll keep posting the Church history, simply because people seem to like that, and I'll probably have a rant or two as well, as the Spirit moves me.

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Today in Church History

I wrote about Protestants who were martyred at the hands of Catholics in England on Monday/Tuesday. Just to show that history is full of martyrs of ALL faiths, I bring you the story of John Gerard.

Gerard's only crime was to be a Jesuit in Reformation England. He was implicated in various plots and crimes -- none true accusations. This day in 1597 was simply another day of torture for him -- hoisted aloft by his arms, tortured so that he would implicate other Catholic priests in whatever the plot of the day was.

He was taunted by his captors. He was told that he'd be a cripple the rest of his life. On this day, it took Gerard much longer to faint than normal. He was taken down, seated, and offered a chance to confess. He refused. "No, I won't. And I won't as long as there is breath in my body."

He was hung up again. Rather than cry out, confess, and end his punishment, Gerard rejoiced that he had been chosen worthy to suffer for God. Finally, the tower governor tired of the game. He returned Gerard to his cell, and the torture ceased. Six months later, Gerard escaped. His only regret -- that he had not been found worthy to die in the service of his Lord.

Where is this kind of devotion in modern (and post-modern) Christianity? In America, we lobby and campaign. We protest and march. We try to make the system work for us, rather than realizing that we are never going to have a system made by men that is favorable to all. We should, as Jesus was, be about our Father's business, no matter who would stand in our way.

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April 13, 2004

A Music Rant

I confess, I used Napster back when it was free. I used Kazaa (then Kazaa Lite, to get rid of the spyware). When I was in middle school and high school, I used blank cassettes to tape music off the radio. I'm not new to the whole music piracy/copyright thing. I got rid of Kazaa about a year and a half ago, and started using iTunes. I've also got the new Napster. 99 cents isn't too much for a single.

NOW, they're gettting greedy. Let's do the math here, just for a second. I can get, on average, 16 songs on a regular CD. That's $16, PLUS I'm buying the CD (call it a dime there). A new release music CD costs about $14 at Walmart. I'm more likely to buy one or two songs from an artist I've never heard of than I am to buy the whole album. And I know that I've spent more this year on iTunes than I would have in the stores -- and I've STILL bought CDs in stores. WHY does the record industry seem determined to committ suicide and blame it on consumers?

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Religion in the Media part 2

This is the article that I just finished reading (would have been done LONG ago, but I've had some wierd stomach virus thing). As I said, it shouldn't surprise anyone that the news media doesn't always represent religion in a favorable, or even accurate, light. The surprise should be that, apparently, the majority of Americans know better, and are willing to watch the misrepresentations anyway. We're willing to let liberal Bible scholars question the reliability of Scriptural accounts. We're willing to let them say that the Gnostic Gospels are more accurate. Why?

I think the biggest part of that answer is the anti-intellectualism that people perceive as part of religion. Matters of faith, we believe, aren't on the same level as history, or science. Faith is individual, it's personal, and what we believe, while good for us, may not be good for everybody. It doesn't even have to be logical; it's faith, after all. And this is an area where evangelicals are trying to make up lost ground.

We say that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Light. If Jesus is the Truth, shouldn't that Truth be, well, true? If we accept that the Bible is God's Word to us, shouldn't that Word be accurate? If it tells us something as basic as the fact of Jesus' burial in a borrowed tomb, shouldn't we accept that as a fact? If it's lying about something like that, how do we determine what it isn't lying about? Can we?

Christians have become afraid of investigating their faith, partially due to the influence of liberal scholarship. If these "learned people" can poke such holes in Christian traditions, why would a Christian want to investigate further -- especially if it runs the risk of destroying our faith? Fortunately, these naysayers and skeptics are not the only authorities. There are conservative Bible scholars of all denominations who take orthodox Christian beliefs seriously, and are showing that they are logical, historic, and valid. We won't find them in the popular media, unless it is on a program outnumbered 4:1 by the Jesus Seminar. We have to find them ourselves -- we have to look. We have to read. We have to do for ourselves the things that the Reformation gave us the ability and the right to do -- study the Bible, and question teachers that contradict it. Until we do that, Peter Jennings will continue to throw softballs at John Shelby Spong and John Dominic Crossan on programs about why Christianity isn't what it was supposed to be, and we'll sit and watch, and wonder about what we were taught in Sunday School. And until we are willing to learn, Christianity will continue to stagnate in the United States, while the Church moves forward throughout China, Africa, and many parts in the East, where they haven't lost the zeal for God's Word.

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Today in Church History

(Actually, looking at the clock, it's now Tuesday, so maybe this should be Yesterday in Church History...)

April 12, 1557: A thousand or more spectators in London watched as Thomas Loseby, Henry Ramsey, Thomas Thirtel, Margaret Hide and Agnes Stanley were burned as heretics. The charge -- converting to Protestantism. All five were given the chance to recant, were all granted audiences with Bishop Bonner in London, England. All five refused to attend churches that they could not in good conscience attend any longer -- the parrish churches were still Catholic.

Pragmatism would say "Stick it out -- God knows your heart. Don't make waves". Thomas Thirtel said, "My lord, if you make me a heretic, you make Christ and all the twelve apostles heretics." Agnes Stanley said, "My lord, as for these that ye say be burnt for heresy, I believe they are true martyrs before God: therefore I will not go from my opinion and faith as long as I live." Pragmatism lost that day.

Should we all stop going to church because we don't like what the preacher said last Sunday? No. One of the things that marked the Reformation was the willingness of common people to study the Scriptures, to attempt to understand what was contained in those sacred books. These five people did exactly that -- they studied the Scripture in English, and realized that they had been misinformed. They had the courage to stand behind their convictions.

We shouldn't leave church because we don't like something that is said. We must leave if we believe that we are being taught something that is incorrect. To do that, we must become students of the Word. This ties in with a previous rant, and connects to the second part of my report on the MRC item I spoke about a couple of days ago. We must study the things of God. We must know what we believe, and why. We need to be able to recognize when we are being told something that isn't true. And we must be willing to act on our convictions, no matter what.

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April 12, 2004

Hello, My Name is Warren ...

... and I'm a readaholic. Seriously, a 22 out of the initial 29, plus just about all the extra ones that people have added.

Thanks to Rebecca Writes for the link to this site (and thanks to Rebecca for actually leaving me a comment!). I know that I am a severe, chronic readaholic, married to a severe chronic readaholic. Our child will probably inherit this addiction.

At least she will if I have anything to do with it.

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My political rant

I usually don't get into politics much at all. I joined the CRs in college, but only because the $5 "dues" paid for a pizza party I went to once. I joined Students for America, but only because of the cool poster they were giving out -- that and the Kennedy for Lifeguard buttons. But when I saw a few of these quotes, I got just a little steamed.

  • "If Saddam rejects peace and we have to use force, our purpose is clear. We want to seriously diminish the threat posed by Iraq's weapons of mass destruction program." - President Clinton, Feb. 17, 1998

  • "[W]e urge you, after consulting with Congress, and consistent with the U.S. Constitution and laws, to take necessary actions (including, if appropriate, air and missile strikes on suspect Iraqi sites) to respond effectively to the threat posed by Iraq's refusal to end its weapons of mass destruction programs." - Letter to President Clinton, signed by Sens. Carl Levin (D-MI), Tom Daschle (D-SD), John Kerry( D - MA), and others Oct. 9,1998

  • "Saddam Hussein has been engaged in the development of weapons of mass
    destruction technology which is a threat to countries in the region and he has made a mockery of the weapons inspection process." - Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D, CA), Dec. 16, 1998

  • "There is no doubt that ... Saddam Hussein has invigorated his weapons
    programs. Reports indicate that biological, chemical and nuclear programs continue apace and may be back to pre-Gulf War status. In addition, Saddam continues to redefine delivery systems and is doubtless using the cover of a licit missile program to develop longer-range missiles that will threaten the United States and our allies." - Letter to President Bush, Signed by Sen. Bob Graham (D,
    FL,) and others, December 5, 2001

  • "We know that he has stored secret supplies of biological and chemical
    weapons throughout his country." - Al Gore, Sept. 23, 2002

  • "We have known for many years that Saddam Hussein is seeking and developing weapons of mass destruction." - Sen. Ted Kennedy (D, MA), Sept. 27, 2002

  • "I will be voting to give the President of the United States the authority to use force-- if necessary-- to disarm Saddam Hussein because I believe that a deadly arsenal of weapons of mass destruction in his hands is a real and grave threat to our security." - Sen. John F. Kerry (D, MA), Oct. 9,2002

  • "In the four years since the inspectors left, intelligence reports show that Saddam Hussein has worked to rebuild his chemical and biological weapons stock, his missile delivery capability, and his nuclear program. He has also given aid, comfort, and sanctuary to terrorists, including al Qaeda members.. It is clear, however, that if left unchecked, Saddam Hussein will continue to increase his capacity to wage biological and chemical warfare, and will keep
    trying to develop nuclear weapons." - Sen. Hillary Clinton (D, NY), Oct 10, 2002

  • "We are in possession of what I think to be compelling evidence that Saddam Hussein has, and has had for a number of years, a developing capacity for the production and storage of weapons of mass destruction." - Sen. Bob Graham (D, FL), Dec. 8, 2002

If Bush lied about WMD in Iraq, what about all these fine, upstanding Democrats?

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April 10, 2004

Religion in the Media

I'm in the middle of reading this report right now. When i'm done, I'll have a little more in-depth commentary on it. But for right now:

Does it really surprise anyone that there has been an increase in religion-related broadcasting, especially in the news? With all the reporting about the Catholic priest scandals, Mel Gibson's movie, and the Left Behind books, of course religion has gotten a lot of press! The problem is, they are asking the questions to the wrong people. John Dominic Crossan is the most visible "Bible scholar" around, if you believe what you see on TV. If ABC, Discovery, History Channel, and the rest are any indication, there are no conservative scholars in the world at all -- at least no scholars who hold to an orthodox position on Christianity. And the average American isn't willing to do their homework -- if they were, these specials would never get the ratings that they do, because people would know better! There was very little on the ABC special that I'd never heard before. Even less on some of the other attempts to cash in on Easter.

Maybe that's just because I'm one of those goofy people who prefers books to TV, but I refuse to believe that the average American is illiterate. NONliterate, maybe. We can read, we just don't want to be bothered. We'd rather listen to the talking heads on TV tell us what Christianity is really all about, so we can laugh at the goofy religious guy at work on Monday. And Christians are as bad, if not worse, than everyone else.

More about this tomorrow, I promise. It's time to dye Easter eggs.

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April 08, 2004

Today in Church History

April 8, 1929 -- The Soviet government passed legislation aimed at destroying evangelical Christianity.

"Religious associations may not (a) create mutual credit societies, cooperative or commercial undertakings, or in general, use property at their disposal for other than religious purposes; (b) give material help to their members; (c) organize for children, young people and women special prayer or other meetings, circles, groups, departments for biblical or literary study, sewing, working or the teaching of religion, etc., excursions, children's playgrounds, libraries, reading rooms, sanatoria, or medical care. Only books necessary for the cult may be kept in the prayer buildings and premises."

In other words, keep your religion to yourselves. Don't hold Bible school for the kids or teach them your faith. Don't encourage people to study the Bible. Don't give your members study materials. Do your thing on Sunday, and leave the rest of us alone. Make sure you're back to normal on Monday morning when you get to work.

Totalitarians fear and hate Christianity. The Romans did -- they tried to destroy the early Church. Hitler did -- he managed to co-opt many Christians by twisting Scripture and distorting historic teachings. Communist governments around the world do. We hear about the trials and tribulations of Christians in China all the time. Cuba is no better. One of the first things that happened in Russia after the wall came down was the re-emergence of the churches that had been driven underground by the government.

Many peope in the United States have this same feeling about religion. It's a great thing for Sundays, they say, but it has no place in everyday life. Don't inflict your opinions on the rest of us. Don't support political candidates who agree with you. Don't DARE share your faith with other people. What do you MEAN, you want to have a Bible study before school during the week?

We can do one of four things. Hide our heads in the sand, hoping that somehow things will get better. Pitch in with them, and stop living our faith outside the church walls. Try to get the government to change things (like that's working!). Or do what God has commanded us to do, and let happen to us what may.

Many Christians have chosen option one. They don't want to know what's going on. They've locked themselves away, and won't come out until the Lord comes back to get them. Far too many have chosen option two. They've sold their birthright for a mess of pottage, and they're parrotting the things the world says we should do. They let unbelievers define what being Christ-like actually is. The religious right has, for the most part, chosen option three. The nature of politics suggests to me that it won't work, and I've seen nothing from any administration to suggest it would be any different. Option four is the option that the early church chose. It's the option of the Reformation. It's the option of the growing Church in China. It's the option we need to choose in America.

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April 07, 2004

Christian Carnival Plug

Hey folks! Just a heads up that the latest Christian Carnival is up right now. I entered my Today in Church History article from a few days ago (another one is on it's way this evening!). I'm even first on the list! There is some great writing over there, so head over and check it all out! I particularly liked this article about evolution from Patriot Paradox. Haven't finished reading them all yet, but there is some GREAT stuff out there.

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April 06, 2004

Insert your own commentary here ...

I don't think I even have to say anything about this story. Don't talk to me about how abortionists want to give women information.

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Jesus, Paul, and Peter Jennings

I watched all but about the last fifteen minutes or so of this special last night. I went into it looking for things that I didn't like about it, to be perfectly honest. I have to admit, it was much more even-handed than I thought it would be.

One of the main things that I think they got pretty close was the misconception among the Jews of the time about what the Kingdom of God actually was. The Bible talks about even the disciples expecting political reform from Jesus -- even after the resurrection.

So when they had come together, they asked him, "Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?" He said to them, "It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth."
(Act 1:6-8 ESV)

They were STILL waiting for the political reform. This was a common misconception of the day, and the program dealt with it rather well, I thought. They DID, of course, venture into the typical 'How reliable are the Gospels', 'Did Jesus claim to be the Messiah?', 'When were the Gospels written?' terrain, and the answers they gave reflected the more liberal scholarship that the show still focused on -- even though there were more moderate and conservative scholars on the program this time.

I was nervous as they started talking about the Resurrection of Christ. This is the one thing that programs like this usually head straight toward the liberal end of the spectrum. John Dominic Crossan didn't let me down here, with his insistance that Christ wasn't even burried, much less raised from the dead. His opinion was in the minority, though, with most of the interviewees firmly sitting on the fence -- "something had to have happened, but I don't know what".

Something DID happen. Something that transformed eleven firghtened men, who were hiding for their lives, waiting for someone to come and haul them off the jail or worse, into an international missionary team that helped transform the world. Within 100 years of Christ's death, the news had spread throughout the known world. Within 300 years, the Empire that had tried so long to silence the Christian voices had made Christianity it's official religion. These men saw Christ, alive.

The biggest problem I had was with the whole Paul vs. the apostles debate. YES, Paul argued with Peter and James. Both men ended up taking Paul's side in the arguement, though (Acts 15). Were there occasional disagreements? Absolutely. These are human beings we are talking about. They had different ideas about what direction the church should go in. And THEY couldn't just sit down with a Bible and look up verses -- they were WRITING the Bible. Ultimately, both sides agreed, though -- we have a common tradition of orthodoxy back very early in church history.

And of course, the old 'Gnostic Gospels' arguement was trotted out again. WHEN are people going to realize that we are rehashing debates that took place almost 100 years ago? The fad died out in about 1910 or so, and it will again, when people realize the poor historiography that is involved. Late date anything that you don't like, early date whatever you do, hope nobody notices. The Gospel of Thomas is authoritative, even though nobody ever mentions its use, but the four canonical Gospels are suspect, even though we have evidence of their use as Scripture from before 170AD. The Gnostic writings represent 'true Christianity', because that is what WE want Christianity to be.

I think this is the biggest problem I have with the 'historical Jesus' searches. Everyone ends up finding, to quote the old song, "their own, personal, Jesus". We have a little box, and that is what our idea of Jesus fits into -- no matter what other 'facts' we find. We can, as the Jesus Seminar does and Thomas Jefferson did, pick and choose what statements we want to believe Jesus made -- let's get rid of everything except the social activism stuff, especially anything that says Jesus about being the son of God. When we start on that road, it's very easy to make Christianity to be anything we want it to be.

I think Paul's teaching about women was a little misrepresented. As usual, they focused on what Paul wouldn't let women do, and not on the specific things women were supposed to do. We tend to do this a lot, even with our gifts and skills. Someone who can sing beautifully will sit and wish they could teach. Teachers want to be able to play instruments. Instrumentalists want to be able to preach. And on and on. We're never satisfied with what God has given us to do -- we always want the other guy's ministry. Paul NEVER said, as was stated in the program, that women were supposed to sit down and shut up. They were given specific roles in the church -- roles that men couldn't do. Lydia and Priscilla are two perfect examples of women who were instrumental in founding the church, who Paul relied on to a great degree. They NEVER are mentioned in discussions about Paul's supposed chauvanism.

They ignored Paul's theology because they don't think the Bible has any relevance to today's world, or even much beyond his own time. They water down his message and Christ's teachings so there is no call for repentance and no fear of judgement. Simply love everyone -- that's what Jesus said. They forget that Jesus was quick to let people know what they were doing wrong. Even the adulterous woman was commanded "Go, and sin no more". Jesus called her a sinner!

All in all, though, it was an interesting program. I learned a bit, and got angry a bit -- but not as much as I thought I would.

Just a few observations:
I was mysitifed about the people they talked to in the Vatican. "What do you know about St. Paul?" I was waiting for someone to say "Well, it's a nice city, but I like Minneapolis better". Where did they GET these people???

I'd heard the soundtrack was upsetting people, but I kinda liked it. Hey, they played dcTalk!

Is it just me, or does John Shelby Spong look a LOT like the Emperor in the Star Wars movies. I think I'd be concerned if my spiritual advisor looked like a Dark Lord of the Sith, but that's just me.

Wow. That was a lot of writing. If you're still reading this, thank you for sticking with me.

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I LIKE this quote!!!

This was written in this article by Al Mohler, President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. The article is a great read in and of itself, but this quote seemed really relevant in light of some of the scholars on the ABC show last night.

'Looking back on the whole project of liberal theology, L?demann offered an amazing reflection: "I don't think Christians know what they mean when they proclaim Jesus as Lord of the world. That is a massive claim. If you took that seriously, you would probably have to be a fundamentalist. If you can't be a fundamentalist, then you should give up Christianity for the sake of honesty." ' (thanks to Ryan at pccboard).

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