About Heretics: Should they be Persecuted? (16th-century guest blog post)


Supplice_des_AmauriciensToday’s “guest post” is by Sebastian Castellio, a 16th-century reformer, pastor, and theologian from France. He was good friends with John Calvin for quite some time, but if there is one big, black, dark stain on the reputation of Calvin, it is his overseeing the burning of the heretic Michael Servetus. The Reformation years were a time of great strife within Christianity and much blood was shed simply because people held different doctrinal convictions. One of the first widely respected people to vehemently fight against this was Castellio. Today, especially in light of last week’s post on denominations, I want to reproduce a small portion of a pamphlet he wrote right after hearing about Servetus’ execution. This event tore apart his and Calvin’s friendship.

Most of the Christian Church doesn’t burn or kill those other Christians with wom we disagree. But still, our modern forms of “persecution” and labeling as “heretic” remains. Blog posts, message boards, tweets, Facebook comments, and passive-aggressive interviews fill the Christian blogosphere. And yet, in a post-Christian America, I find this to be increasingly unnecessary, silly, and shameful. My favorite Castellio quote is this:

To kill a man is not to protect a doctrine, but it is to kill a man.

I think the same can be said about dumb comments, blog posts, and tweets that aim to take down others that are just as sincerely trying to follow God as we are. As you read this, imagine today’s forms of attack in place of the overtly violent ones mentioned by Castellio, and I think you’ll agree this is a important a read today as ever. (This excerpt has been lightly edited for clarity. If you’d like to read the unedited excerpt, you can find it in this preview of Hans Hillerbrand’s The Protestant Reformation.)

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The Surprise of Advent: WordPress Weekend Photo Challenge


jesus-suffering-pma

This week’s WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge theme is “Surprise“. With Advent having been on my mind (and blog), I thought of this picture. Or rather, to be more specific, the juxtaposition of these two pictures:

jesus-asian-god-pma

On one of my trips to the Philadelphia Art Museum to fight my inner Atheist, after spending some time with that beautiful Jesus statue above (a favorite of mine), I actually walked through the other side of the Medieval Art section to enter the Asian Art section.

I’m sorry, and forgive me if you can’t relate, but Asian Art has never done it for me. I don’t know why. I can see the craftsmanship aspect to it (I guess), but the beauty part feels lost on me. And so, when I go into Asian Art sections, my “art critic” side sort of quiets down and lets other parts of me take hold.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Renewal


This week’s WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge theme is “Renewal“.  This here is a picture of one of my favorite rooms in the Philadelphia Museum of Art. It’s in the medieval art section (a section which, as I’ve written before, carries much significance to my soul).

I still remember the first time I turned the corner and saw this crucifix on the wall. It’s crude, yet so beautiful. It faces another, dimly-lit room in which there is a medieval-era altar on which there was taken countless pieces of Eucharist.

The last time I was at the museum, though, I noticed a bit of symbolism I’d never noticed (and I have no idea why). This crucifix is positioned above a 13th-century knight’s tomb effigy. After spending some time in reflection near the aforementioned altar, I looked back through the arch and for the first time noticed that the gaze of the dying Christ seemed to be settling not on the museum passer-bys, but on the effigy of the dead knight before him.

The Christ’s gaze of sadness and pity no longer seemed to be for his own sufferings, but for the death and suffering of this one that lay before him. This gaze seemed to carry with it not only sadness, but also a stoic confidence that through this act, he would bring an end to this knight’s sleep.

Through this act of loss and sadness, here is a picture now of rebirth and renewal, made all the more meaningful as I took this picture from the steps of that altar, bathed in darkness, on which was consecrated and served Christ’s body, broken for our renewal and light–then, and today.

See my past Weekly Photo Challenges here.

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Going Medieval on my Atheist Self (on art & assurance)


Even back in my hyper-Calvinist days–assured that I was chosen, secure, and Elected unto salvation–I recognized the reality that if I were not a Christian, I’d certainly be an Atheist. If there was some way that I could be convinced that Christianity was a fraud (and here are some ways), I would not face any temptation to be a Buddhist or New Age mystic or anything of the like. No, No. I would be a hardened, militant Atheist.

How do I know this? Well, Christianity has the idea that within each believer is the “Old Self” and the “New Self”. This Old Self is, essentially, who we are apart from God.

That Old Self, though we fight it our entire Christian lives, won’t actually be fully snuffed out until the end of all things. And so, in a sense, if we’re sensitive to it, we can sometimes “feel” that “without-God” version of ourselves rolling around in there somewhere in our hearts.
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