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Memorial Day, 2011

A lot to think about today, one set apart for remembering those who gave their lives in service of the country. Truly, the American people and even the world owes a great deal to them. Without their service and sacrifice, there would be no freedom, here or elsewhere.

And yet... Is freedom really the result of military action alone? Is there a place in the purpose of this day to remember the true source of freedom? Is there a place to especially honor the one true and living God, without whom there would be no freedom, here or anywhere? Because, truly, the state of the culture of a people is based in the God or god they profess to worship. And only in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of the Bible is there freedom. And even more, the highest levels of freedom come in those people who truly know Jesus as Lord and Savior, people who, interestingly, dwell in the nations shaped by reformed Protestant Christianity.

Thank you, Father, and thank you, Jesus.

I was recently in a conversation about the value of religion in general and Christianity in particular. It was an interesting discussion, and some good questions came up. One, in particular, I want to address here: Why does anyone need religion, and why, especially, should anyone become a Christian?

I'll begin with a caveat that this is a subjective response: I am talking about why it makes sense to me that religion is necessary, and that Christianity, for good reasons, some fairly objective and others quite personal, is not only the best choice, but the only good choice. Christianity is unique, and everything else fails careful examination. Also, I have made no attempt at some logical order or arrangement. I'm writing as things come to me.

Resurrection Day

Tomorrow is Easter Sunday, the traditional holiday marking the resurrection of Jesus. Most Americans don't associate Jesus or his resurrection with Easter. So here's the question: Is Easter about a real, historical event, where the man/God Jesus, who was killed and buried, physically came back to life? Or are people who agree with that statement living in a world of delusions?

A "Spirit-ual" Puzzle

I've been reading N.T. Wright's book, Surprised by Hope. It's a fascinating read, about heaven, resurrection and the mission of the church. The premise is that we can't understand the mission or purpose of the church - that's you and me - without understanding heaven and resurrection. And of course, heaven and resurrection can't be addressed without considering the book of Revelation, one of the most fascinating of biblical books. Some years back, I read Eugene Peterson's Reversed Thunder, the best book I have read on Revelation.

So Bishop Wright got me thinking about Revelation again, and I decided to read it once more. It's not going smoothly. Even in the first chapter, I get hung up on things I have read many times, but that now make me stop and say, "What does that mean, anyway?"

Qumran cave interior There's a hub-bub in the world of academia regarding a new book by Rachel Elior, professor of Jewish Philosophy at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, which questions the existence of the Essences and their presumed authorship of the Dead Sea Scrolls of Qumran. Elior believes the existence of the Essences to be fictional, based on utopian tales which were misread by later authors such as Josephus and Pliny. According to the book, the Dead Sea Scrolls were penned by Jerusalem priests of the Sadducean branch.

Elior's book suggests that the past 60 years of scholarship and the overwhelming majority of scholars which view the Essences as an historical community are simply "mistaken". Needless to say, this hurt more than a couple egos.

Some New Testament scholars believe that John the Baptist may have encountered the Essene community while dwelling in the desert and may have gleaned some aspects of his messianic expectations from them. Calling the Essenes' existence into question thus also reverberates through New Testament Studies and our understanding of the influences available at that time.

You can read more about this academic cat-fight and the fate of the Essenes here. I'm sure we haven't heard the last of it.

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      Dee, Thanks for your thoughts. A couple problems as I see it: First, ...

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