Looking Back

Thursday afternoon I took back the bicycle I had borrowed from Bernard Brown. I got a little bit lost, spent a few minutes visiting with the village blacksmith, but finally found my way back to the right path. When I got to his house, it seemed like just a few days had gone passed since I picked the bicycle up.

The time has gone by fast, but I also have experienced a lot-more than I normally would in a month. I wrote my wife yesterday and said I have met wonderful people and wonderful places-what more could you want in a travel adventure? She wrote back and mentioned food and entertainment. I’ve enjoyed that too.

I came here to learn, to get acquainted, to see what God is doing here, and to help out if I can. I think I’ve done a little of each of these. I have certainly learned a lot and enjoyed myself in the process.

Bill Clark accompanied me on a bicycle ride to Spey Bay and back (with a little detour on the way back, but we won’t mention that). Then he followed up a couple days later with a trek up Ben Hill. Malcolm and Lorraine took me to the Queen Mother Library at the University of Aberdeen, where Raemond later picked me up and dropped off at the train station. Ronald met me at Keith and brought me on back to Buckie. Later Wullie and Jeannie to me back to Aberdeen. While at the university I gave them examinations in theology and they both passed.

They also showed me the castle at Huntley, and then later took me on another trip to Elgin and showed me the ruined cathedral, the monastery, and the chapels that were disguised as a barn to avoid being burnt. We added a little unplanned adventure to that days outing, but we won’t go into that either.

Dyllis took me to Fochabers and into the Grampians and along the River Spey, where I saw some beautiful scenery. She also showed me the plant where the cashmere products are made. I saw a beautiful robe I would have liked to get for my wife-but first I would have to sell a condo in Florida. (Since I don’t own one, my sweetie won’t be getting the robe.) Dyllis also took me to hear some fine fiddle music in Elgin today.

Ruth and Stuart showed me the coastal villages between here and Banff. They also introduced me to the joys of haggis-and they let me get acquainted with Cody. Bernard introduced me to the men’s Bible study that meets on Monday night, and I met some wonderful Christian brothers.

In my Sunday morning messages at church, this is what I said: God is at work and all we need to do is become aware of what God is doing, and then make ourselves available. There is a ministry or place of service for each one of us. We don’t all have the same gifts, but we all have gifts that we can use to share God’s love with someone else. The Christian life is a life of faith, hope, and love.

I am grateful to the people of Buckie for their hospitality, prayers, and friendship. If the Lord opens the doors, I hope I can come back again, and bring Sonja with me.

Monday morning I fly to Tuebingen.

from Malcom by George MacDonald

That night the weather changed, and grew cloudy and cold. Saturday morning broke drizzly and dismal. A north-east wind tore off the tops of the drearily tossing billows. All was gray–enduring, hopeless gray. Along the coast the waves kept roaring on the sands, persistent and fateful; the Scaurnose was one mass of foaming white: and in the caves still haunted by the tide, the bellowing was like that of thunder.

The next day, the day of the Resurrection, rose glorious from its sepulchre of sea-fog and drizzle. It had poured all night long, but at sunrise the clouds had broken and scattered, and the air was the purer for the cleansing rain, while the earth shone with that peculiar lustre which follows the weeping which has endured its appointed night.

Review here, Gutenberg Project e-book free download here.

Religious Wars

The Reformation Era by Robert D. Linder

Westport, CN and London: Greenwood, 2008

I have just finished reading Robert Linder’s new book on the reformation and plan to write a formal review. Dr. Linder is distinguished professor of history at Kansas State University.

A couple years ago he graciously agreed to speak to a small conference we had in Manhattan. I asked him to address the health of evangelical Christianity in the United States. He agreed, and as the date approached changed the working title of his lecture.

His first title was something like “The Health of the Evangelical Church in America.” Later he revised it to “The Seriously Ill Evangelical Church in America.” When he finally gave the lecture, the title was “The Apostate Evangelical Church in America.”

But that’s another story . . .

The book on the Reformation is written for high school and undergraduate students wishing to write a term paper the topic. It is packed full of information, including many primary documents, glossaries, brief biographies of major players, charts of main events and other helps, along with the main narrative. The book will prove very useful for its intended readers. I suspect that it will also be useful for graduate students preparing for exams. But I’ll finish the formal review later.

Right now I am thinking about all the bloody religious wars during that era.

This week I visited the ruined cathedral of Elgin. The remains are impressive enough–but how did the cathedral get ruined?

This one was actually destroyed well before the Reformation by the Wolf of Badenoch, son of the illegitimate father Robert II, in revenge for his excommunication.

But after the Reformation many of the catholic churches were destroyed by zealous reformers. These wars were probably political more than religious–except that religion and politics were so intertwined it was impossible to untangle them.

The thing that impressed me while reading Linder’s book and while visiting historic sites was that the only ones who came out without blood on their hands were the Anabaptists or radical reformers–those who took seriously the teaching of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount and the nonviolent lifestyle of the pre-Constantinian Christians–the forerunners of the Mennonites, the Brethren, the Baptists and other similar followers of Christ who believed in free association, separation of church and state, and freedom of conscience.

They were suspected of being related to the rebellion of the fanatical Thomas Müntzer, with whom they had nothing in common, and were persecuted mercilessly by protestants and catholics alike. The Anabaptists women in particular showed tremendous courage; many of them were tortured and eventually murdered, usually by drowning.

Photo of the Week

The people of Buckie can’t imagine what it would be like to live over 1000 miles from any ocean, like I do.  We do have sunsets, though.

Enn and Out

I can’t imagine a greater contrast than the behavior of Westminster Theological Seminary and the attitude of F. F. Bruce (whose autobiography I recently reviewed). F.F. Bruce guided the evangelical community away from anti-intellectualism and showed the value of historical research in the Bible. He showed that a historical-critical approach to the Bible is compatible with faith and an aid to faith in helping us understand the Bible properly. He celebrated the freedom provided to him in his own church affiliation and in his working environment.

Professor Bruce began his career as a professor of Classics.  He believed that the Greek and Latin literature from the centuries before and after the events of the New Testament is the best guide to understanding the setting of the events and literature of early Christianity.  Peter Enns undertook a similar type of study of the Old Testament–he studied the ancient literature from the region and time of the Old Testament events–ancient Babylonian literature, for example.

Petter Enns has written a very helpful guide to some difficult historical issues relating to the Old Testament, called Inspiration and Incarnation. He never calls into question the truthfulness or authority of the Bible for believers, but he does raise questions about its interpretation. He argues that we have to understand the understanding of the first readers and writers if we are going to understand the message of the Bible.

I have read his book, and many of the ancient writings to which he refers, and the Westminister Confession of Faith–I can find nothing in Enns’ book that contradicts what that 17th century document teaches “Of the Holy Scripture“.

I know that the seminary named after the Westminster Confession has held traditional (not to say rigid) theological positions; in particular some of their opinions expressed by Westminster faculty on issues related to gender and freedom seem quite retrograde to me. When I read Inspiration and Incarnation I changed my opinion of the seminary–there is evidently some academic freedom there, I thought.

Evidently I was wrong. On All Fools Day this month the administration of WTS gathered their students in the chapel and announced that professor Enns had been suspended pending further investigation into his orthodoxy.

(See Peter Enns website here.)

Train of Remembrance

I hope I don’t get in trouble for plagiarizing myself!  I posted this note on my “Theological German” blog:

Zug der ErinnerungThe Train of Remembrance is making its way through German cities, commemorating German children who were deported by the Nazis.  The German government seems to be dragging its feet in supporting the traveling exhibit.

Margaret, who keeps us supplied in eggs, forwarded this notice from Ursela.

The train will be in Dresden when I arrive in Germany.

Here is the link to the press releases in English.

Traveling Mercies

Anne Lamott

If you have ever walked out on a speech by Tony Campolo, this book is not for you. Anne Lamott’s Traveling Mercies is one of the reading selections I brought along.

Anne grew up in San Francisco in the 60s and 70s with secular parents who were devoted to progressive causes. She did have some adopted “moms” who told her she was beautiful and God loved her. Later in life when she eventually admitted she was an alcoholic (but before she admitted she had an eating disorder) she started attending an African American church. If C.S. Lewis was was England’s most reluctant convert, Anne eventually became America’s most reluctant convert.

Somebody forgot to tell her some things, e.g.: Christians don’t cuss; Christians don’t believe in abortion; true love waits; and God is a republican. In a chapter dealing with forgiveness, she includes Ronald Reagan and George Bush (the elder; the book was published in 1999) among those who have hurt her personally and whom she finds it hard to forgive.

The portrait she paints of her self is not always attractive. You see her making the same dumb mistakes over and over again. One thing I admire about Anne Lamott, though, is that she remained loyal to all her friends whether they were atheists (most of them), Buddhists (a few), alcoholics (most of them), or whatever–I don’t suppose she ever had any republican friends; but she does describe one attempt to forgive one who happens to be the mother of a classmate of her son Sam.

If you can get past her personal failings, the book has something important to say: namely that people like Anne Lamott are the very people Jesus came to call as his disciples. She is a pretty good example of the kind of people the “emerging church” (or is it “emergent”? I sometimes forget) movement is trying to reach. She is a pretty good example of what Bonhoeffer’s nonreligious Christian might look like.