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.

Monday, December 14, 2015

The Story of "O Come, O Come, Emanuel" and the "O Antiphons"

The story behind the hymn "O Come, O Come, Emanuel" stretches back at least to the 700s AD and perhaps back to around 500 AD or even earlier. This article tells that story, including explaining the hidden acrostic in the original prayers, and provides a devotional for the seven days preceding Christmas.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Now Thank We All Our God

Today is Thanksgiving in the United States. One popular hymn for this holiday is Martin Rinkart's "Now Thank We All Our God." We live in uncertain and dangerous times, and many people are worried about war, terrorism, and other problems facing us today. Rinkart's story and his hymn can help put this in perspective. Read about it here.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Visual Arts and the Bible

My latest article at the Colson Center deals with visual arts, aesthetics, and the Bible's attitude toward them. Christians often seem to avoid art while embracing kitsch and utilitarian architecture. Both modern art and Christians today have forgotten (or intentionally ignore) the importance of beauty. This article points out the Bible's focus on beauty as a reflection of God and an important element of worship.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Katharina von Bora

With the 498th anniversary of the 95 Theses approaching, a piece on the Reformation seemed appropriate. For those of you who don't know her, I'd like to introduce you to Katharina von Bora, a.k.a. Katie Luther, one of the most formidable women of the sixteenth century.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Two New Articles

I have two articles up on the Colson Center since my last update. The first is about Ho Feng Shan, a Nationalist Chinese diplomat sometimes known as the Chinese Schindler. The second is an article surveying the place of music in the Bible. Enjoy!

Friday, October 2, 2015

Kim Davis and the Pope

The Pope met with Kim Davis, gave her a hug, and told her to “Be strong.”

Conservatives greeted this news with cheers, while there was weeping and gnashing of teeth among Progressives.

Then word came from the Vatican that the meeting was not what it seemed. “The pope did not enter into the details of the situation of Mrs. Davis and his meeting with her should not be considered a form of support of her position in all of its particular and complex aspects.”

And immediately the Progressives rejoiced, proclaimed Kim Davis a liar—some even said the Pope said she was a liar--and said that Francis offered “no support” for her position.

Let’s all just take a deep breath and look at what was actually said.

First, no one called from the Vatican called Davis a liar, and the statement did not say there was no support for her position; read it again: the meeting “…should not be considered a form of support of her position in all of its particular and complex aspects.” This is not the same as saying he doesn’t support anything about what she did.

The question remains, did Kim Davis lie?

Let’s propose a scenario. For the sake of argument, let’s suppose the Pope did not know who Kim Davis was (a proposition I find questionable) and that he wouldn’t actually support her at all. This seems unlikely given his public statement earlier that civil servants retain their right of conscience, but for the sake of argument, let’s assume it anyway.

A member of the Papal Curia arranges a secret meeting between Francis and Davis that could become a propaganda victory for conservatives in the Vatican. He brings Davis in and only tells the Pope something to the effect that she’s gotten into trouble for her religious views. The Pope meets Davis, says encouraging things to her, and tells her to “Be strong”—words that fit the situation and would not be unlikely in this scenario.

What does Kim Davis know? She knows what the Pope said about freedom of conscience and civil servants, and that the Pope spoke encouraging words to her; she does not understand the politics in the Vatican behind the power play, so she quite naturally interprets the events as support for her, and describes it as such.

Did she lie? No—she wasn’t intentionally deceiving anyone, but she did misunderstand the situation.
Then the Pope finds out about what happens. He doesn’t want to get involved in the situation, so he issues the statement above and to distance himself from the event. The statement is noncommittal because of internal Vatican politics or because he doesn’t want to insert himself into American politics, but he’s hoping people will read between the lines.

I don’t think this is a completely accurate reconstruction of the situation, but it is at least plausible and, given the premises, likely. But to the Progressives, the only possible interpretation of Francis’s words is that he called Davis a liar—which objectively he did not—and that he does not in any way support her. This push to demonize her illustrates the irrational hatred of Davis that seems to characterize any Progressive discussion of her situation.

And Progressives accuse Conservatives of engaging in witch hunts!

A CORRECTION: The interview in which the Pope said that civil servants should have a right not to participate in same sex weddings occurred after his meeting with Davis.

MORE INFORMATION: It turns out we do have an account of what happened with Kim Davis and how it happened by someone with direct knowledge of the situation. See this article.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Making Sense of the Surreal, Part 2

Here is Part 2 of my article, "Making Sense of the Surreal: The Worldview of American Politics."

Monday, August 31, 2015

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Now What?

In my latest article at the Worldview Journal, I discuss the church's response to the SCOTUS decision imposing SSM across the country. I'm looking particularly at Rod Dreher's Benedict Option and what Marvin Olasky calls the Daniel Option.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Reformation History Tour, May 23 to June 5, 2016

I will be leading a Reformation History Tour next year. We'll be seeing 6 UNESCO World Heritage Sites and visiting four countries. I'll be teaching Reformation history and theology, and we'll have local guides in Prague, Wittenberg, Eisleben, Eisenach and the Wartburg Castle, .... For more information, check out the page on my ministry website. It's going to be a great trip!

Castle Church, Wittenberg, where Luther nailed up the 95 Theses

Friday, February 20, 2015

Upcoming Online Class on the Crusades

I will be teaching an online course on the causes and conduct of the Crusades starting in March. I am working out the final details of the course, and if you might be interested in taking it, I'd like your feedback. Please take my brief four question survey. It will only take a couple of minutes and it will be an enormous help to me in my planning. Thanks!

Monday, February 2, 2015

New Article: The Believer's Three Callings, Part 1

My new article is up at the Colson Center. It's part 1 of a series entitled "The Believer's Three Callings," dealing with the Great Commandment, the Great Commission, and the Cultural Mandate. The object is to give a more complete picture than we usually get of God's calling for Christians in this world.

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)