This blog grows out of my conviction that every aspect of our lives is sacred and is to be nurtured and celebrated as a good gift of God. Most of the posts will be the sorts of things you would expect from a historian and worldview teacher, but some are likely to be a bit surprising. Since God created all things good, including all aspects of human life, everything is interesting and important from the perspective of a biblical worldview. Everything under the Sun and under Heaven is thus fair game here. I hope you find it interesting and enjoyable.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

On the Eighth Day of Christmas

Today is the eighth day of Christmas. For those who don’t know, in western Christianity Christmas is a twelve day feast, ending on January 5 (Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night”) just prior to January 6, the Feast of Epiphany when we celebrate the arrival of the Magi to worship Jesus and thus look ahead to the spread of the Gospel to all the peoples of the earth.
It is very unlikely that Jesus was actually born on December 25. That date was selected for reasons I explain here. But the date actually has serendipity about it because it makes January 1 the eighth day of Christmas. Consider:
  • On the eighth day after his birth, following the Law of Moses, Jesus was circumcised.
  • January is named after Janus, the Roman god with two faces, one looking backwards to the past, the other forwards to the future.
  • So on the first day of the month that looks back to the past and forward to the future, we celebrate Jesus’ circumcision, looking back to the Old Testament even as we look forward to the inauguration of the New Covenant through Jesus’ work.
This wasn’t the reason December 25 was selected as the Feast of the Nativity (a.k.a. Christmas), but there is something appropriate about it. It also gives additional meaning to the start of the New Year.
And with that, I wish you all a very happy and blessed New Year.
amhn ercou kurie ihsou. (Rev. 22:20b)

Monday, December 29, 2014

Christmas and Paganism

My new article at the Colson Center deals with a lot of the nonsense that gets thrown around by both atheists and well-meaning evangelicals and fundamentalists about the supposed pagan origins of Christmas and Christmas traditions.

Monday, December 1, 2014

The Gospel and the Law, Part 3: the Civil Law

Here's the next article in the series on the Gospel and the Law of Moses. This one focuses on the Civil Law.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving Thoughts

Today is the Thanksgiving Day holiday in the United States. These days Thanksgivings seems to be more associated with shopping and sales than actually giving thanks for the many blessings we have. I’ll spare you a rant on that point, but I would like to talk a bit about Thanksgiving, particularly through the lens of popular hymns associated with the holiday. The first is “Now Thank We All Our God:”

Now thank we all our God, with heart and hands and voices,
Who wondrous things has done, in Whom this world rejoices;
Who from our mothers’ arms has blessed us on our way
With countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.

O may this bounteous God through all our life be near us,
With ever joyful hearts and bless├Ęd peace to cheer us;
And keep us in His grace, and guide us when perplexed;
And free us from all ills, in this world and the next!

All praise and thanks to God the Father now be given;
The Son and Him Who reigns with Them in highest Heaven;
The one eternal God, whom earth and Heaven adore;
For thus it was, is now, and shall be evermore.

The hymn was written by Martin Rinkert, a Lutheran pastor, in the midst of the Thirty Years’ War. The Thirty Years’ War is still remembered today as the most devastating war ever fought on German soil, including World Wars I and II. Rinkert moved to the city of Eilenberg in Saxony at the beginning of the war.  The city was overcrowded with refugees. It was taken by armies three times during the war, and also had multiple outbreaks of plague. In 1637, during a sever outbreak of plague, Rinkert was left as the only pastor in the city. He conducted up to 40 funerals a day, a total of 4,000 that year, including one for his wife.

In the midst of all of this chaos, death, and devastation, Rinkert wrote a hymn of thanks to God.

Or take another popular Thanksgiving Hymn, “We Gather Together:”

We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing;
He chastens and hastens His will to make known.
The wicked oppressing now cease from distressing.
Sing praises to His Name; He forgets not His own.

Beside us to guide us, our God with us joining,
Ordaining, maintaining His kingdom divine;
So from the beginning the fight we were winning;
Thou, Lord, were at our side, all glory be Thine!

We all do extol Thee, Thou Leader triumphant,
And pray that Thou still our Defender will be.
Let Thy congregation escape tribulation;
Thy Name be ever praised! O Lord, make us free!

This hymn was written in 1597 by Adrianus Valerius in the middle of the Dutch Revolt against Spain, where the Dutch were fighting for their independence and the freedom to practice their religion. It was a nasty, brutal war, the echoes of which can be heard in the hymn. It was published in 1526, five years after the Dutch were drawn into the Thirty Years’ War as a continuation of their struggle for independence.

Our world today seems out of control, with war, terrorism, rioting, economic uncertainty, Ebola, …. The list is endless. And yet, in conditions worse than those we are facing, Rinkert and Valerius wrote hymns of thanks and faith. How much more should we be expressing our thanks to God for the unending blessings he has given us in this life and his promises for the age to come.

Monday, November 17, 2014

The New Covenant and the Law of Moses

The next article in the series on The Gospel and the Law is up. This one focuses on Maundy Thursday and the New Covenant.