But one of the Twelve, Thomas, called Didymus, was not there when Jesus came to them. So then, the other disciples said to him, “We’ve seen the Master!”
But he said to them, “If I don’t see in his hands those nail wounds, if I can’t put my finger in them, and if I can’t put my hand in his side, I will not believe.”
And after a week, again the disciples gathered together and Thomas was with them. The doors being shut, Jesus came and stood in the middle of them. He said, “Peace be with you!”
Then he said to Thomas, “Bring your finger here and see my hands. Place your hand in my side. Don’t disbelieve — believe!”
Thomas answered him, “Oh my Master and my God!”
Jesus said to him, “Because you have seen me, you believe. Blessed are those who don’t see and yet believe.”
“I don’t believe in the resurrection. I know. I’ve been around here for a while, and it’s just kind of the expectation for people like me. I know, I know. It’s been a week. I know everyone was celebrating last week, there were songs, there may have been some dancing somewhere, I know everyone was happy. I know everyone was happy, but I didn’t see it. I don’t have that kind of hope, you know. I can’t just believe. I know you’ve got your arguments. I know they’re there, and I think they’re pretty convincing sometimes, but it’s just not enough. It’s just that after everything I’ve seen in my life, since I was born, all the war, all the hunger, all the suffering … It’s just — how can you look at all that suffering, all that pain, all that misery and say he got up? I just can’t believe it. What makes you think that we’re so special, that we know the Messiah, the Savior? What makes you think somebody from Nazareth of all places was so special? Didn’t Nathaniel say it right? ‘What good can come out of Nazareth?’ What makes you think some carpenter’s son who could pull off some neat tricks is the Savior of the world — that he got back up. They killed him, guys. They killed him. If he could save himself, surely he would have done it beforehand. I just can’t believe this story, it’s too much. Peter, I know what you say you saw. Mary, I know what you think you saw. John, I know there wasn’t anything there — but there are so many kinds of explanations! I don’t have that kind of hope. Don’t get me wrong, I think what he said was right, I think what he asked us to do was right, I think building this Kingdom is still our job … at least I still think that most days. But some days I don’t have that kind of faith. Not today, not now. Not after what we saw last week — they killed him. I just don’t have that kind of faith. If I don’t see in his hands those nail wounds … if I can’t put my finger in them … and if I can’t put my hand in his side … I will not believe.” Read the rest of this entry
This week, Joe Carter of the Gospel Coalition published an article on their website entitled “When did idolatry become compatible with Christianity?” In his article he wonders when it became acceptable for Christians to “embrace and endorse homosexual behavior.” His answer is that there is no specific date, but it is part of a wider idolatrous movement in the church. He characterizes the issue like this:
At its root, the issue has more to do with idolatry than marriage, since same-sex marriage could not have advanced in America if believers had not exchanged the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob for the God of faux-love, cultural acceptance, and open theism.
This idolatry, he says, takes two forms. The first is essentially libertarian. Some Christians believe that because we live in a pluralistic society, and we do not have anything but a religious objection to marriage equality, we can’t really say it should be illegal. Carter says to do so is to replace
Jesus’ commandment—”You shall love your neighbor as yourself”—with the guiding motto of the neopagan religion of Wicca, “Do what you will, so long as it harms none.”
The second form of idolatry is essentially just liberal theology he doesn’t care for. He says that they have “completely rejected the authority of Scripture and embraced the idol of open theism, a god who changes his mind over time.” He proceeds to use Rob Bell as a punching bag, which is becoming a pastime for Reformed theologians, I think.
He concludes that Christians who agree with him (as opposed to the idolatrous Christians who don’t) need to speak up. He concludes:
We fear that if we point out too clearly or forcefully that you can’t both serve God and endorse sin that they may leave our congregations. We seem more concerned with losing the volunteer for the Sunday morning nursery or the regular check in the offering plate than we do with the souls of those in open and unrepentant rebellion against God. We seem more worried about the judgment of the kids in the youth ministry than we do with the judgment of a wrathful and holy God. We are so troubled by the thought that same-sex advocates will fall away from the faith that we fail to see that they’ve already rejected the faith of historic, orthodox Christianity and replaced it with an idolatrous heresy—one that is as destructive and hateful as any that has come before.
I don’t need to tell you that I have problems with this article, but let me outline them.
[[This is a column I wrote for the Samford Crimson that came out this past Monday. No online link yet, so I thought I'd post it.]]
In a surprise announcement last week, Pope Benedict XVI announced that he would be resigning his office. The Bishop of Rome has not resigned since Gregory XII, but that was only because there were multiple popes at the time (don’t you hate it when that happens?). Speculation has been whirling around news agencies and the Vatican itself about whoever the new pope will be, but the College of Cardinals will not convene to elect this successor until March.
While there are numerous debates about who would make (or not make) a good pope, everyone seems to agree that there are several problems this new pope will face. There is, primarily, the matter of scandals in the Church. Both the issues with the Vatican Bank and the myriads of sex/abuse scandals among the clergy will continue to plague the Holy See. Christian presence is dwindling in multiple global regions, including the Middle East and Western Europe. Christian presence is booming in new areas of the world like Africa and Latin America, but with that shift comes a very different way of doing theology and looking at ministry. All of that says nothing of continuing questions about priest shortages, doubts about clerical celibacy, and calls for women’s ordination.
Roman Catholics are not alone in welcoming a new leader in 2013, however. Archbishop Justin Welby assumed the highest office of the worldwide Anglican Communion and the Church of England just a week before Benedict XVI announced his resignation. Numerous American denominations are facing shifts in leadership with regard to age, gender, and even theological or political persuasions. Christians of all stripes are at a point of significant change.
Furthermore, the issues that face the new leader of the Roman Catholic Church are issues that face all of these Christians, as well. Catholics are not alone in their crisis of clerical and institutional integrity. Protestants alike are often confronted with insidious financial or sex scandals. The shift of Christianity toward the global south affects all Christians, not just Catholics. It is going to create new theological and practical challenges for everyone. Questions of sexuality and gender regarding everything from women’s ordination to homosexuality will continue to be questions at the front and center for the Church’s new leadership and their congregations.
The Church (Catholic and otherwise) needs to recognize this new era and its old questions as ripe with possibility. For too long now, the Church has been dividing itself along pseudo-political lines, claiming that we have “liberal” and “conservative” Christians. Such a binary is unhelpful and prevents dialog. It is also frequently inaccurate or at least insufficient. With our new leaders and our changing congregations, Christians must seek to foster new understanding that we might work together to devise sustainable answers to the problems that face us all.
So, as some of us church history nerds are watching different colors of smoke coming out of the Vatican next month, take a moment and consider what you can do to bring up these issues in your local communities of faith. See what questions you can ask and what answers you can seek so that we can all start to build a better Church for a better world.
This summer, I had the opportunity to sit down with many future leaders in ministry with the Fund for Theological Education. I learned a lot from the people I met and the conversations I had. One of those people was Kenny Clewett. I saw the video of his interview from that week online today and thought I’d share.