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For the Life of the World (Miroslav Volf & Matthew Croasmun) -- A Review

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FOR THE LIFE OF THE WORLD: Theology that Makes a Difference. By Miroslav Volf and Matthew Croasmun. Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2019. 196 pages.

I understand that many Christians, let alone people outside the faith, consider theology to be irrelevant to real life. In fact, many clergy believe this to be true. It seems to be an esoteric exercise with no real-world application. As one who is trained as a theologian (historical theology), I would beg to differ. Despite my protests, I expect that I would not convince the skeptic of the value of theology. Miroslav Volf and Matthew Croasmun, both of whom teach at Yale Divinity School, have heard the same critique of theology, and in For the Life of the World,offer their response.
Volf and Croasmun are not na├»ve. They acknowledge that the study of theology is at this moment in the midst of a deep crisis. For one thing, seminaries are in decline, which makes it difficult for academically trained theologians to get teaching positions. Seminari…

Catholic Schools Tomorrow -- Sightings, (Martin Marty)

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In this essay Martin Marty comments on the state of Catholic education. I am interested in this topic not because I'm Catholic or attended Catholic schools (I was educated in public schools until college). The reason is that my wife, who like me is Protestant spent ten plus years teaching in Catholic schools. As revealed here, there are mounting challenges to the extensive Catholic school system, in part due to the decline of religious institutions in the United States. Yet, they remain an important element of the faith community. And as Marty hints, the reason why this system was born was the anti-Catholicism of an earlier time that used public schools to reinforce Protestantism. Like I said, he hints, but doesn't go to far. So, if you're interested in Catholic education, take a look!  

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Trust in the Lord and Live Abundantly - A Lectionary Reflection for Epiphany 6C (Jeremiah 17)

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Jeremiah 17:5-10 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
Thus says the Lord:
Cursed are those who trust in mere mortals
    and make mere flesh their strength,
    whose hearts turn away from the Lord.
They shall be like a shrub in the desert,
    and shall not see when relief comes.
They shall live in the parched places of the wilderness,
    in an uninhabited salt land. Blessed are those who trust in the Lord,
    whose trust is the Lord.
They shall be like a tree planted by water,
    sending out its roots by the stream.
It shall not fear when heat comes,
    and its leaves shall stay green;
in the year of drought it is not anxious,
    and it does not cease to bear fruit. The heart is devious above all else;
    it is perverse—
    who can understand it?
10 I the Lord test the mind
    and search the heart,
to give to all according to their ways,
    according to the fruit of their doings.
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Having encountered the calls of first Jeremiah and then Isaiah to their respec…

A Life that Is Good (Glenn Pemberton) -- A Review

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A LIFE THAT IS GOOD: The Message of Proverbs in a World Wanting Wisdom. By Glenn Pemberton. Foreword by Tremper Longman III. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, Co., 2018. Xviii + 286 pages.
In his first letter to the Corinthian church, Paul told his readers the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom. It is easy to mistake Paul as an advocate of Christian anti-intellectualism, but that would not be true. He values wisdom, just not the kind that devalues the power of the cross. His comments about wisdom, however, do raise questions of the purpose and value of wisdom, especially words of wisdom that are found in Scripture. It’s interesting that the Letter of James, which is often contrasted with the words of Paul, is understood by many to be a book of wisdom. No biblical book is linked to wisdom than the Book of Proverbs. If you've spent time with this biblical wisdom book, you will know that it can give you pause. There are sayings found within its pages that seem hars…

First Things -- A Sermon for Epiphany 5C (1 Corinthians 15)

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1 Corinthians 15:1-11

You may remember the Roots miniseries from the 1970s that told the story of Alex Haley’s ancestors, beginning with Kunta Kinte, who was ripped away from his home in Africa and sold into slavery. One of the key elements of the series is the family story that is passed on from generation to generation. In telling his own family story, as it moved through slavery, emancipation, and Jim Crow, he invited others to remember and retell their own family stories. While watching that mini-series as a white college student, I can tell you that it was not a comfortable experience. It was, however, a powerful one. 
This increased interest in genealogy and family history has only increased in recent years, with the dawn of DNA testing. Whether its “23 and Me” or “Ancestry,” we can now discover our genetic roots. People are exploring their roots as a way of discovering a sense of identity. People want to know where they come from.  Although I haven’t taken the DNA test, my mother…

What does the academic study of religion mean? -- Sightings (Joshua Feigelson)

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I have with some regularity reposted essays from the Martin Marty Center, which are published under the moniker of Sightings. Most have been written by Martin Marty himself, a fellow church historian, whom I have had the privilege of conversing with on two occasions. This essay I'm sharing today is written by Joshua Feigelson, the Dean of Students at the University of Chicago Divinity School. It is not a regular Sightings piece. In fact, it comes as an Announcement from the Divinity School. The post title is taken from the essay itself. Feigelson writes here of the history of the Divinity School and how it has changed from a focus on ministry training to academic training. The question is what does all this mean in this day and age? It is a good question. My son is a graduate student at Claremont School of Theology, engaged in the academic study of religion. I did the same years ago, though focused differently. So, this is an issue of great interest to me. I invite you to read the…

Let Us Sing to the Lord!

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Last night President Trump delivered his belated State of the Union Address. I did not watch it. Even if he says nice things about joining together as a nation, I’m not sure I believe him. So, rather than watch it, and get angry, I just let it pass. The fact is, when it comes to matters of the American union, things aren’t going well. Yes, the stock market is up, which is a good thing when it comes to my eventual retirement. But Dow averages tell us only so much about the state of the union. We are divided on so many things, and I’m not sure we have the wherewithal, at least on our own to rectify things.
With that seemingly politically charged statement out of the way, I turn to the declaration I made in titling this posting. IN the midst of our situation in life, I hear the call to sing to the Lord. It is not intended to be an evasion of the realities around me, but rather as a sign that the powers that be are not ultimate. I wrote a lectionary reflection posted yesterday on the readi…