Issue #4

The Cross, Luther, Passages, Discoveries, Priests, Books, and Splintering

Issue #4

Thinking of the Cross

As I was going through my study of Matthew 27 (Jesus’ crucifixion), I came upon this quote. As we start this letter, I invite you to slow down, read this slowly, and do as it asks of you:

Feel it if you will. Let it happen to you if you dare.

Take the most precious friend of your life. The person with whom you’ve known joy and fun and sorrow. With whom you share the deep bonds of caring. Place him upon the cross and watch him writhe in pain.

The nails driven into those beloved hands are driven into our hands. The muscles excruciatingly stretched are our muscles. The terrible burning of his tongue and mouth is in our tongue and mouth. We feel it all as if we were there ourselves because the most precious person in all the world is there on our behalf.

Feel it. Experience it if you will.

– Lloyd John Ogilvie, The Cup of Wonder: Communion Meditations (Wheaton: Tyndale, 1976), 75

I have not yet gotten this from my mind. It has impacted my emotions profoundly when I think of the cross. It can be difficult to think of the sufferings of a man who I have never met physically. But when I mentally place that suffering upon one I love, capture that emotion, and place it upon what my precious savior has done for me, I feel his death in a new way.

Church History Corner ⛪️

What Martin Luther’s Stand for the Gospel Means for Us Today | Robert Kolb →

On April 18, 1521, 500 years ago this week, Martin Luther stood facing ex-communication at the Diet of Worms. Robert Kolb walks us through a brief sketch of the events and what it means for us to look at Luther today as a role model of Christian conviction in a world that is hostile to us.

Our situation a half a millennium later is quite different from that which confronted Luther in 1521. Nonetheless, Christians increasingly encounter opposition to our faith. Believers often have one of two reactions. Some of us, when thinking about the possibility of threats of one kind or another when we confess our Lord, assert boldly (in the relative safety of the current moment) that we will always be ready to sacrifice whatever it takes to make clear that Jesus is the center and master of our existence.

If you are a Protestant, these events are crucial to understanding the faith we hold today. If you’d like to read more, Michael Haykin, Herman Selderhuis, and Carl Trueman share their reflections on Luther’s famous trial.

Passages: Nicaea | Mere Orthodoxy →

I grew up in a church that did not place much weight on church history more than 50 years old, but in the last few years, I have enjoyed learning about the ancient controversies and theology that have shaped our family history for millennia. If you are like me and have not been shaped by historic practices and theologians, this podcast may be challenging for you.

Joshua Heavin and Caleb Wait put together a podcast discussing and examining the Nicene Creed: its history, its content, and its controversies. I encourage you to give it a shot. It’s very well-produced and will help you understand a council meeting and text that has shaped Christian belief more than anything other than the text of scripture itself. You can listen to the first podcast here, and here is the link. The podcast is still in progress, but I’ve enjoyed it so far. Below is the text of the Nicene creed that they are examining:

We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of all things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten of the Father the only-begotten; that is, of the essence of the Father, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance (homoousios, pronounced homo-oo-si-aws) with the Father; by whom all things were made both in heaven and on earth; who for us men, and for our salvation, came down and was incarnate and was made man; he suffered, and the third day he rose again, ascended into heaven; from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

And in the Holy Ghost.

But those who say: 'There was a time when he was not;' and 'He was not before he was made;' and 'He was made out of nothing,' or 'He is of another substance' or 'essence,' or 'The Son of God is created,' or 'changeable,' or 'alterable'—they are condemned by the holy catholic and apostolic Church.

I added the English transliteration of the Greek word for "substance" because it is an important part of the podcast and it can be helpful to know which word is being discussed.

Christianity Is True ✝️

Top Ten Discoveries in Biblical Archaeology-Old Testament: Digging for Truth Episode 57 | Associates for Biblical Research →

In a brisk, 26-minute episode, Pastor Bryan Windle gives his top ten Old Testament archaeological finds. It’s incredible how much of the Old Testament—thought to be legendary accounts for so long—has now been confirmed through archaeological finds.

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Explore the Scriptures 📖

Were Adam and Eve Priests in Eden? | BibleProject →

BibleProject has started a new series on the theme of “the coming royal priest,” and the first video starts by exploring the royal priests of Eden in Genesis 2-4. The accompanying article linked in this section explores this theme in more depth. The article starts by noting the similarities between the structure of creation in Genesis 1 with a temple structure. Then it moves to how Eden imagery is used in the Israelite temple to evoke an image of the temple as a new Eden. Eden is the place where heaven met earth and God walks with mankind, and it is so for the temple.

If the biblical authors wanted us to see the garden as a temple, are we to see Adam and Eve as priests?

Actually, it seems that this is exactly what the authors had in mind. In the garden-temple, humanity served as God’s royal representatives, or priests.

In the Hebrew Bible, the temple was where priests uniquely experienced God’s presence. In the garden, humanity fully experienced God’s presence—walking and talking with him.

The article then makes a biblical case for Adam and Eve to be seen as priests. Finally, we see how Jesus is the second Adam and fulfills Adam and Eve’s priestly duties to bring God’s presence to all of us on the cross. BibleProject also has a podcast series on “The Royal Priest available, but I have not yet listened to it.

If you've enjoyed reading this letter, please share it with others and help us grow.

Living This Christian Life 🤴👸

Why Reading Books You Disagree With Helps You Grow | Jason Thacker →

In this article for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, Jason Thacker writes about how reading Peter Singer’s book on ethics (which most Christians would profoundly disagree with) has helped him be able to form his own beliefs and engage with the culture.

One of the most devastating effects of the culture wars happening all around us, especially on online platforms like social media, is that we are often told that we need to be protected from the world of ideas or that reading something outside of our own beliefs might lead us down a path of destruction. While this is understandable to some extent, this siloing effect is dangerous to the life of the mind and treats the very concept of understanding our neighbors as a bridge too far.
Do we really think so little of our ability to think and reason that we cannot engage divergent positions or even allow them in the public square?

In America, it is becoming more common for the secular culture to disallow even the discussion of traditional Christian views in the public square. In the past, it has sometimes been the Christians who have sought to stifle discussion and debate on various topics. So it has always been for the powerful to stifle dissent. We must be careful as Christians to not go the simple and easy route of only reading things we agree with. And, if you are a parent, we must be careful to expose our children to views we disagree with (in a safe environment). No matter what you do, your child will be exposed to views you disagree with. If you try to shelter them from those views, they will be ill-equipped to handle those arguments when they do encounter them. I firmly believe that a child cannot be sheltered into the kingdom of God.

Best with a Cup of Tea ☕️

The Splintering of the Evangelical Soul | Timothy Dalrymple →

Christianity Today president Timothy Dalrymple writes this lengthy article about how the evangelical Christian community, which used to appear generally joined together in beliefs, now seems to be splintering into smaller subgroups with irreconcilable beliefs.

One group within American evangelicalism believes our religious liberties have never been more firmly established; another that they have never been at greater risk. One group believes racism is still systemic in American society; another that the “systemic racism” push is a progressive program to redistribute wealth and power to angry radicals. One is more concerned with the insurrection at the Capitol; another with the riots that followed the killing of George Floyd. One believes the Trump presidency was generationally damaging to Christian witness; another that it was enormously beneficial. One believes the former president attempted a coup; another that the Democrats stole the election. One believes masks and vaccines are marks of Christian love; another that the rejection of the same is a mark of Christian courage.
There are countless groups in between, of course, but these examples illustrate the tension: We occupy the same reality but starkly different worlds. There is a real question whether these worlds can (or should) draw back together again. This is a critical moment for our movement.

Dalrymple examines three sources of information that are at a crossroads among evangelicals: the media, our authorities, and our communities. I wanted to quote more, but the whole article is so good that you should take the time and read it for yourself. I believe this piece is truly incisive and important. Keep reading to find what he thinks we should do next to address each of these crossroad issues.

Keep Your Mind on Things Above

I will be praying for you this week.

In Christ,

Joel Fischer