From the Dean
The Dean Recommends: How to Fight for Faith in the Dark
I’ve often said that depression is like wearing tinted glasses. Everywhere you look, things look dark. Bleak. Black. Hopeless. Helpless. The waiting room for depression says, “Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.”
Depression is both a physical and spiritual affliction. Neurons and synapses fail to fire properly, leading to chemical imbalances in the brain. These imbalances cause the depressed person to feel awful, like their entire world is a raw catastrophe hovering over the depths of despair. When everything is a catastrophe, it’s easy for faith to falter and stumble.
Normally, the prescription for faith is somewhat straightforward. We read the promises of God, let them diffuse throughout our hearts, and then embrace them fully. As we embrace these promises, our faith rises. When we have more faith, there is often a physical feeling of encouragement and hope.
But with clinical depression (and most other forms of mental illness), things don’t work quite that way. Read the rest by Stephen Altrogge at Desiring God.
Originally published on April 19, 2017.
Dr. Luther's Theology
One day in 1511, Luther and his monastic mentor, Johann von Staupitz, sat under a pear tree in a garden near their cloister at Wittenberg. The vicar-general told young Luther he should become a professor of theology and preacher. Luther was taken aback. “It will be the death of me!” he objected.
“Quite all right,” said Staupitz. “God has plenty of work for clever men like you to do in heaven!”
Luther did receive his doctor’s degree—just over a year later, on October 18, 1512. That day he also received a woolen beret, a silver ring, two Bibles (one closed, the other open), and a commission to be a “sworn doctor of Holy Scripture.” He took that commission seriously. It guided his theology and his career as a reformer. Years later he declared, “What I began as a Doctor, I must truly confess to the end of my life. I cannot keep silent or cease to teach.” In his view, the Reformation happened because the pope tried to hinder him from fulfilling his vocation of expounding the Scriptures. Read the rest at Christianity Today.
Originally published in April 1992.
The Dean Recommends: Who Would Jesus Abort? Confessions of a “Christian” Abortion Doctor
Willie Parker is an abortion doctor. He says he’s not ashamed of that. Willie Parker also says he is a born-again follower of Jesus Christ. That one’s more complicated. His new book on why Jesus would support his abortion practice shows us the end-result of a cultural Christianity in which the self can redefine anything: Jesus, the gospel, morality, justice, even life itself.
Parker is a kind of circuit-riding abortionist, spending time at various abortion clinics all over the South. The book, Life’s Work: A Moral Argument for Choice is one part an autobiography, and one-part a political manifesto for the legality—and even the goodness—of abortion. Even as one who has to wade through all sorts of material assaulting human dignity, I found that I would gasp at the lackadaisical nature of Parker’s reflections.
Parker writes about his profession of faith in Christ. He even discusses listening to some beloved Christian writers—C.S. Lewis and Thomas Merton, for instance—on his long drives between abortion clinics. Jesus, Parker tells us, has no issue with Parker’s vocation. And, apparently, neither does Parker. He writes, chillingly, about aspiring to learn how to do abortions. He said that he would go to the Planned Parenthood clinic “and perform abortions, over and over, like the athlete who goes to the gym after practice to shoot three-pointers.” He would sometimes do fifteen abortions, sometimes thirty “I wanted to get to the point where the procedure was automatic, a synthesis of muscle memory and mental vigilance,” he writes. Read the rest by Russell Moore at RussellMoore.com.
Originally published on April 10, 2017.
The Dean Recommends: What is the historical evidence that Jesus Christ lived and died?
How confident can we be that Jesus Christ actually lived?
The historical evidence for Jesus of Nazareth is both long-established and widespread. Within a few decades of his supposed lifetime, he is mentioned by Jewish and Roman historians, as well as by dozens of Christian writings. Compare that with, for example, King Arthur, who supposedly lived around AD500. The major historical source for events of that time does not even mention Arthur, and he is first referred to 300 or 400 years after he is supposed to have lived. The evidence for Jesus is not limited to later folklore, as are accounts of Arthur.
What do Christian writings tell us?
The value of this evidence is that it is both early and detailed. The first Christian writings to talk about Jesus are the epistles of St Paul, and scholars agree that the earliest of these letters were written within 25 years of Jesus’s death at the very latest, while the detailed biographical accounts of Jesus in the New Testament gospels date from around 40 years after he died. These all appeared within the lifetimes of numerous eyewitnesses, and provide descriptions that comport with the culture and geography of first-century Palestine. It is also difficult to imagine why Christian writers would invent such a thoroughly Jewish saviour figure in a time and place – under the aegis of the Roman empire – where there was strong suspicion of Judaism. Read the rest by Simon Gathercole at The Guardian.
Originally published on April 14, 2017.