“We receive God’s promises only when they are confirmed by the blood of Christ … we hear God speaking to us only when we see Christ offering himself as a pledge in what is said to us. If we could only get it into our heads that the Word of God we read is written not so much with ink as with the blood of the Son of God.”
–John Calvin, Commentary on Hebrews
(from Martha L. Moore-Keish’s excellent book, Do This in Remembrance of Me)
This Church season of Epiphany primarily celebrates the coming of the wise men to see the young Jesus. Now think of the popular conceptions of the “wise men”. I imagine the picture that comes to mind is much like the one above: a quaint manger, farm animals, some shepherds, and the three wise men, presenting their gifts to the newborn Jesus.
I’m not sure how many of us know how wrong this is.
The wise men did not visit Jesus in the manger, their paths did not cross at all with the shepherds (that we know of), and, contrary to some of the most well-engrained church and musical traditions, their number is not given–“three” is just a guess. This guess is probably based on the fact that three gifts were offered (though the 6th-century Armenian Infancy Gospel, the source of the Western tradition of the wise men’s names and ethnicities, lists far more than just three gifts). The Eastern Church tradition even says it was twelve.
And yet, for over a thousand years, on into the present day, these traditions concerning the Wise Men have persisted. We know the sources of these traditions, we know when they became popularized, and we know how they’ve been used in Christian preaching and church life through the centuries. Every Advent season, even the most cursory drive in the suburbs will offer nativity scenes peppered with three wise men adoring the manger-laden Christ.
This reminded me of Jannes and Jambres.
photo from Wired Science
Well, my article for last week on Patrol took a little longer for me to submit it than usual so it only just got posted. The article has to do with the recent situation involving Bruce Waltke, formerly of Reformed Theological Seminary. The article is in response to a recent post by Rick Phillips of the site Reformation21, whose mission is “Encouraging biblical thinking, living, worship, ministry, and constructive cultural engagement.” I believe the articles written by Phillips (and others) reacting to Waltke’s situation do not fall into any of those parameters set by that mission statement. Here’s the link:
“If You Believe in Jesus, the Resurrection, & Evolution, You Are A Heretic”
Also, something that might be of interest to some, the article contains a very surprising and substantial list of names (and links to sources) of Christians throughout history whose view of Genesis either explicitly or implicitly allows for, encourages, or would have allowed for theistic creation by means of Darwinian evolution. Check it.
You can see all of my past articles for Patrol here.
The other day I posted an article on how Roman Catholics look at Scripture. When I originally wrote it, it was far too long to post online in its entirety. Therefore, I cut out some chunks, that I’d like to post now. They are mainly on how I believe the current landscape is in typical Evangelicalism in America. I know I’m using broad strokes to talk about these things, but I assure you, this mindset is still very strong, especially in the South. Here it is:
Oh, the Bible. It’s the lifeblood of the Church. It’s our backbone. Why? Well, the logic goes like this: there’s a God who’s so far beyond our understanding that we can know nothing of Him unless He reveals it to us. That’s what Christian believe the Bible is–the revelation of God. This may sound fairly simple–and it is, in one sense–but in some areas, this truth of Scripture sometimes brings more confusion and disagreement than clarity and insight. Because, let’s face it, it’s difficult to grasp that the God that is SOOOO beyond our understanding revealed himself through–of all mediums–a book? And what’s more: this book? It’s tough to read many (most?) parts of the Bible and think “this is the revelation of GOD.”
Oh, the Bible. It’s the lifeblood of the Church. It’s our backbone. But there’s so much we don’t get, and the culture both within and without the Protestant Church hasn’t helped. In its response to the Enlightenment, Evangelicals adopted the ground rules and assumptions that undergird modernism, namely, that Truth must be something that has a one-to-one correlation to things in created reality (as opposed to Ultimate Reality–God Himself), therefore making science and history the only vehicles for this Truth. This has caused so many problems with the rest of the world when talking about a little doctrine: Inerrancy which means, at its simplest level, that the Bible contains no “errors”. What does that mean?
Catholics can help us answer this. I fear that Evangelicalism is becoming increasingly irrelevant to the current discussion on nearly every front because of these improper assumptions about Scripture. Catholics, though, were having these discussions in the Middle Ages! They have largely already dealt with the things that we Protestant are only now encountering issues with. This gave them a foundation that let them maintain intellectual and biblical credibility in light of the Enlightenment and now modernism. Here’s what they say about Scripture in the Catholic Catechism: