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  1. Justin Martyr on Early Church Worship

    April 8, 2014 by Jeff Wright

    This is great material describing the worship of the early church by Justin Martyr (AD 100-165) from from chapters 61-67 of his First Apology.  I sadly had to cut it from my sermon Sunday but wanted to broadcast it in some form.  Thankfully I remembered I have a blog for just such a purpose!

    …we afterwards continually remind each other of these things. And the wealthy among us help the needy; and we always keep together; and for all things wherewith we are supplied, we bless the Maker of all through His Son Jesus Christ, and through the Holy Ghost. And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; then, when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things. Then we all rise together and pray, and, as we before said, when our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought, and the president in like manner offers prayers and thanksgivings, according to his ability, and the people assent, saying Amen; and there is a distribution to each, and a participation of that over which thanks have been given, and to those who are absent a portion is sent by the deacons. And they who are well to do, and willing, give what each thinks fit; and what is collected is deposited with the president, who succours the orphans and widows and those who, through sickness or any other cause, are in want, and those who are in bonds and the strangers sojourning among us, and in a word takes care of all who are in need. But Sunday is the day on which we all hold our common assembly, because it is the first day on which God, having wrought a change in the darkness and matter, made the world; and Jesus Christ our Saviour on the same day rose from the dead. For He was crucified on the day before that of Saturn (Saturday); and on the day after that of Saturn, which is the day of the Sun, having appeared to His apostles and disciples, He taught them these things, which we have submitted to you also for your consideration.


  2. Just FYI: Michael Heimple of Capitol Artists Colorado Springs is an Inveterate Spammer

    April 4, 2014 by Jeff Wright

    For some time now my church and each email address associated with it has been receiving unsolicited bulk emails from Michael Heimple of Capitol Artists of Colorado Springs, CO ( Mike@capartists.com ).  These emails are solicitations for booking artists operating in the Christian arena.

    In mid-2013, in an effort to reduce the amount of unsolicited email coming to my inbox (because dealing with the number of emails I receive that I asked for or that need my action is difficult enough) I replied to one of these emails asking that my address be removed immediately.  I had to reply to the message with the request in pure hope, considering there were no details about how to unsubscribe from the mailing list within the body of the message nor were there links to any automated unsubscribe programs.  I received a reply which was highly sarcastic in tone but which indicated I had been removed.

    The emails continued to come unabated.  I replied again in late 2013, indicating this time that every address associated with our church’s domain and my own private email address should be removed immediately from any and all mailing lists current or future.  The reply I received was in clear and direct violation of the 2003 CAN-SPAM Act , specifically items #5 and #6 on the Federal Trade Commission’s CAN-SPAM page.

    I was told by Mr. Heimple that he couldn’t simply remove all email addresses associated with our domain because his database didn’t sort the addresses used by domain.  Again, a clear violation of the CAN-SPAM act and thus literally a Federal issue.  However, in charitable 1 and pragmatic interests I provided a list of emails which needed to be removed.

    The reply I received to the one with the list of emails to be removed was again sarcastic and launched a lengthy email correspondence conducted over several hours where Mr. Heimple took a taunting tone toward me and in which I reminded him that it was he, not I, who was intentionally in violation of Federal law.  While I kept the initial email 2 requesting to be removed, I failed to save copies of the following interaction, a failure I greatly regret at the time of this writing.

    Today I received another unsolicited email, this time promoting a group called The Cavaliers Quartet 3.  At this point I feel like I have no choice but to take more direct and public action as my private attempts have failed.

    Simply put, operating as a spammer – even in an attempt to connect artists with church audiences – is a violation of the law and fails to reflect appropriate Christian ethics within the context of business.  If you are an artist associated with Capitol Artists or Michael Heimple (I’m not sure if there are more employees at Capitol Artists than Mr. Heimple) please know you are doing yourselves no favors by allowing him to conduct business this way on your behalf.

    *Update 5/13/14* These keep coming in.  I guess from here on out I’m going to update this post each time I receive a new spam message from Heimple and then share it on social media anew.  Hopefully enough eyes will see it or it will turn up in search results to the point Heimple will feel like he has to follow through on my requests to have our email addresses removed from his spam email lists.

    Here’s my most recently received spam email from Michael Heimple (mike@capartists.com) of Capitol Artists.

    2nd Update for 5/13/14: Another one came in.  Reposting, notifying spam@uce.gov and SpamCop, again.  Wonder if it is time to start contacting the artists in the emails directly?

    *Update 6/21/14* I’ve been contacted by another individual who has apparently had similar dealing with Heimple.  While not surprised I am saddened by this new information, mostly on behalf of those artists that Heimple represents.

    Notes:

    1. i.e. I didn’t want to turn an individual representing Christian artists in for violation of Federal law
    2. That one was promoting a group named The Farm Hands Bluegrass Quartet, which sounds like a band I’d like to hear.
    3. If you are in The Cavaliers Quartet let me be clear: I’m sure you are great guys who love the Lord. Heimple, however, is a problem.  And just so you know, the link to your site that he included in his spam email promoting your group didn’t actually work because he messed up the address.

  3. Baxter on the Use of Scripture in Child-Rearing

    February 18, 2014 by Jeff Wright

    Baxter

    Don’t let the date of composition (17th century) mislead you – there is a great deal of practical wisdom in Richard Baxter’s The Duties of Parents for Their Children.  Great writings, like this one, that come to us through the ages often have survived because their contents have value that is timeless.  This is certainly the case with this particular piece.

    The first “Direct” in this work is confused by Baxter’s paedobaptist theology but the remainder is chock full of careful thinking and practical advice.  One example is found in “Direct V”.  There Baxter offers counsel to Christian parents about how they use Scripture in the discipline program of their home.  Baxter’s idea is to show children the discipline they are receiving is rooted in the clear Word of God.

    Labour much to possess their hearts with the fear of God, and a reverence of the holy Scriptures; and then whatsoever duty you command them, or whatsoever sin you forbid them, show them some plain and urgent texts of Scripture for it; and cause them to learn them and oft repeat them; that so they may find reason and divine authority in your commands…

    The result of this practice should be a well trained conscience that guides them in the private moments parents don’t have access to.

    It is conscience that must watch them in private, when you see them not; and conscience is God’s officer and not yours; and will say nothing to them, till it speak in the name of God.

    Ultimately the desired aim is heart transformation – the kind that arises from the child’s connecting the parent’s discipline to Scripture and thus see the action of their parent reflective of the will of the Lord for their lives.

    This is the way to bring the heart itself into subjection; and also to reconcile them to all your commands, when they see that they are first the commands of God.


  4. Robocop and Descartes

    February 17, 2014 by Jeff Wright

    IMG_0393

    For those who find philosophy boring or irrelevant might I direct your attention to the box office?

    I’ve made no secret about my excitement about the new Robocop remake.  While I was too young (or too naive?) to see the social commentary in the first film I fell in love with the character – a cop who is a robot!  Who wouldn’t?

    The newest installment of the franchise didn’t disappoint me as a fan.  In fact, to my pleasant surprise, the film raised philosophical questions about subjects I’m passionately interested in.

    • What makes me, as an individual, me?
    • What should the relationship between research science and commercial application?
    • Can humanity be reduced to a machine made of meat?
    • Can we really have talk about having free will in any meaningful sense?

     

    Not what you would normally expect from a big-budget action movie, right?

    One of the more interesting issues raised is found in the scene where the reconstructed protagonist is going to take a definitive field test in battle against robot and human opponents.

    – Spoiler Alert

    Unbeknownst to Robocop his corporate backers have been pressuring the scientists who created his new existence to eliminate any human element from their product’s threat-assessment and problem-solving process.  They want the man to function like a machine.

    The solution, according to the doctor, is to let the non-organic part of Robocop do the work in battle while sending feedback to his organic brain which makes the brain believe it is calling the shots.  Doctor Norton says something to the effect that while in combat Alex Murphy (the human component of Robocop) is simply “along for the ride.”

    Sound familiar?  It does if you are familiar with Rene Descartes.  Descartes, leading the way to the Enlightenment, was a man hard-pressed between two intellectual aims.  On the first  hand, his commitment to rationality led him to believe that all of life was merely the product of mechanical forces.  On the other, he was Catholic and wanted to maintain room intellectually for an immaterial, non-mechanistic aspect of humanity.  His solution was to conceive of a mind (or soul) free from the mechanical functions of the body.

    Frans_Hals_-_Portret_van_René_Descartes

    In her book Saving Leonardo Nancy Pearcey explains Descartes’ dilemma and solution well:

    [Descartes viewed the human body] as a kind of robot or wind-up toy.  ‘I suppose the body to be nothing but a statue or machine made of earth,’ he wrote.  Its motion follows ‘necessarily from the very arrangement of the parts,’ just as the motion of a clock follows ‘from the power, the situation, and the shape of its counterweights and wheels.’

    Because Descartes was Catholic, however, he also wanted to salvage the concept of a mind as a free, self-sufficient consciousness connected somehow to the robot body – in his words, a ‘rational soul united to this machine.’

    Cartesian dualism was irreverently dubbed the ‘ghost in the machine.’

    This “ghost in the machine” is just what Robocop is presented as – a human consciousness (with its attendant moralities, values, and other ethical baggage) riding along in a mechanical body that is doing just as it pleases on its own and with great efficiency.

    This radical divide between the conduct of the body and the emotional health of the mind/person is actually quite common in our culture.  It is also completely unlivable.

    Perhaps the clearest illustration of both the radical divide between body and mind and the total failure of that divide to function in real life is seen in the emotional fallout from the hook up culture.  Sexual ethics common today in the West strongly suggest that the physical act of sex should be divorced from emotional ties and expectations of commitment.  The youngest adults among us have been trying to live out these principles in a climate of sexual encounters intended to only be enjoyed on the physical level. However, since humans are whole beings those participating in hook up culture have found that the attempt leaves them disillusioned, wounded, and alienated from the people around them.   It turns out that this attempt to live as a “ghost in the machine” leaves people haunted by the consequences of morally broken choices.

    In Robocop Murphy’s humanity eventually overrides his programming and asserts control over his whole being.  In the case of those trying to live a similar divide between who they are and what they do we find, unsurprisingly, that ther humanity eventually rises to the surface as well.  It turns out that there are grave consequences to me that come from what happens to and with my body – even if I don’t believe it is possible.

    It is important, whether in a philosophy class, a movie theater, or a frat party, to identify the ideas competing for our embrace and evaluate them in light of reality.  Doing so, at the very least, helps us avoid the toxic aftermath following attempts at trying to live as something other than the image bearers we are.  It turns out that Descartes’ (and our culture’s) radical divide between the human body and the human being are just as fictitious as the cyborg protagonist of Robobcop.


  5. Common Core & The Shape of Western Culture

    February 4, 2014 by Jeff Wright

    rottedapple

    Remember, culture is transmitted in large part through stories. According to Dr. Terrence Moore of Hillsdale College in Michigan Common Core is replacing the stories that have built, shaped, and nurtured Western Culture for thousands of years with “post-modern tales of cynicism and ennui.”

    Let me be clear about what I mean when I say “culture” – I’m talking about, at least in part, the way a society of men and women think, including chiefly their moral calibration.  If you take out the story of even a modern text like, for exampleTo Kill a Mockingbird and replace it with A Mother of Monsters you aren’t just swapping one text for another.  You are making a radical adjustment of worldview.

    If Dr. Moore is right, and it appears he is, Common Core isn’t just going to bring horrible scholarship to our students but will in effect attempt to re-create Western Culture in the image of something much less worthy than what it is replacing.


  6. Heaven Is For Real Isn’t For Real

    January 24, 2014 by Jeff Wright

    IMG_0177

    Original Title: Why I Will Not Be Celebrating Easter 2014 at the Movie Theater or Why I, as a Christian, will be boycotting the film Heaven is for Real.

    A few weeks ago I posted an image to my Instagram feed with the caption “I have hate in my heart.”  I did so because I do so. I hate - hate – that there is a movie adaptation of the book Heaven is for Real.  Actually, I am not that thrilled that the book exists, let alone is sold by my denomination’s bookstore (in about as many different packages as they can make a buck off of).  I am positively disgusted (although not surprised in the least) that it has been adapted in to a movie that WILL BE RELEASED THE WEEK OF GOOD FRIDAY.

    I’m sure many, if not most, who read this will think I’m looney, too harsh, or a jerk for the preceding paragraph.  Any chance you’ll hang around for me to explain?

    I’ll have to begin with the source material.  Colton is a cute kid.  What he and his family experienced is an outright tragedy and a gift of God’s kindness.  I’m thankful the Lord chose to preserve his life and restore him to his family.  God is good.

    What has happened afterwards, however, I am not thankful for.  Innocently or not (you never can tell with Christian publishing and retail), his story has become a chief diversion to the central event of the Christian faith.

    Heaven is indeed for real – but Christians don’t believe that because of some supposed experience had by Todd Burpo’s kid, Jesse Duplantis, Don Piper (if you aren’t familiar then my denomination’s bookstore, again, will be happy to make a buck educating you) or any other after-life-experience salesman.  We believe it because Christ told us:

    “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”

    The existence of this book, this movie, and their combined marketing campaigns push believers to find validation (or, at minimum , confirmation) of their faith outside of the authoritative declaration of Christ.  This is necessarily a step away from the truth of God’s revelation of and in Christ toward the inward and subjective (synonyms for unreliable).  In reality this book that is lauded as so supportive of our faith ends up taking us in the opposite direction of Biblical faith.

    Interesting, isn’t it, that the one time in Scripture where someone is granted a trip to heaven from which they return to earth that person is expressly told not to discuss what he witnessed and heard.  That establishes a precedent, doesn’t it?  Why, then, would Burpo, Duplantis, Piper, etc get license to tell what Paul said cannot be told and speak that which Scripture says man may not utter?  Doesn’t it seem more likely that they didn’t?  I believe so, strongly.

    Finally, this whole idea of “a confirming witness” coming from these books doesn’t just erode our confidence in the revelation of Christ.  It also, and not subtly, undercuts our appreciation of the resurrection of Christ as the singular confirming event in our faith.  Paul makes it clear in 1 Corinthians 15:1-20 that the resurrection, alone, validates the claims of Christ and our belief in them through the word firstfruits in vs. 20.  This is a technical term referring to the first products of the ripening harvest that guarantee more of the same kind to come in the future; Paul’s usage indicates that since Christ has been raised all who believe in Him will be raised as well.

    It is this final point that so antagonizes me about the film, specifically its release date.  Whether or not you celebrate Easter and despite it’s connection to ancient pagan holidays Western Christians have historically associated that holiday with the celebration of the resurrection.  What we will have is a move away from a historic celebration of the actual historical event which is central to the faith known as Christianity to an innovative, unreliable, marketing-driven counterfeit! 1 To have this unhelpful, distractionary, subversive, and unbiblical narrative released at this time is (at best) a cash-grab aimed at a Christian community far too ready to pay for their deception as long as it comes in “Christian” packaging.

    *Edit* One other point that I intended to make but failed to include in the original draft which my friend Terry reminded me of is addressed to those who think Heaven is For Real might be useful to provoke faith in those who read or watch: that possibility specifically ignores what the Bible says about how faith is birthed in an unbelieving heart.  It is through hearing the gospel that faith comes (Romans 10:17).  The story of Christ’s righteous life, sacrificial death, and triumphant resurrection is that which has the power of God to save (1 Corinthians 1:17-31) – not the stories of afterlife-experience hucksters.  As a matter of fact, this notion of a story about a regular person dying and returning being seedbed for faith is specifically contrary to Jesus’ own words in Luke 16:19-31 – “If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, [ i.e. the testimony of Scripture] neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.” *Edit*

    So what’s the take-away?  Do I think you are a bad person (or bad Christian) if you read, enjoyed, or recommended Heaven is for Real?  Do I think everyone has to agree with me or feel as strongly as I do about these things?

    No, across the board.

    What I’d like for you to do after reading this post is to make a fresh commitment to be a thinking Christian, to never take off the lenses of discernment no matter what your eyes are aimed at, and to cherish the Word of God and the Resurrection of Christ above every substitute that presents itself.

    As for that Wednesday before Good Friday and Easter?  I hope that you have a chance to spend it in a local church, with believers you live with and love, celebrating the greatest thing that ever happened to us – that greatest events in history – and which gives us the fullness of our confidence.

    Notes:

    1. Or, just as bad, a syncretistic mingling of the two.

  7. Happy Birthday to Huldrych Zwingli

    January 1, 2014 by Jeff Wright

    HuldrychZwingli

    530 years ago today in Wildhaus, Switzerland was born Huldrych (sometimes written as Ulrich) Zwingli, perhaps the most under-appreciated of the Magisterial Reformers. 1   Zwingli is simply fascinating – he arrived at many of the same conclusions as Martin Luther independently (and perhaps in advance) of Luther, out of his movement comes the best of Anabaptism, and his life ends on the battlefield.

    Dr. Jim West of Zwinglius Redivivus has written a wonderful introduction to Zwingli for this New Years Day and I recommend it highly.  Dr.  West’s blog would be an excellent for anyone whose appetite for learning more about Zwingli is whetted by his introduction.

    I recommend spending some of your time today learning about this captivating, helpful, and neglected Christian leader.

    Notes:

    1. Personally, I consider it an out-and-out shame that so few contemporary Christians are familiar with Zwingli.

  8. Always Christmas and Never Winter

    December 27, 2013 by Jeff Wright

    I hope that this Christmas season was phenomenal for each and everyone reading this post.  I hope you deeply and thankfully celebrated the miraculous (even that word seems somehow lacking doesn’t it?) Incarnation of the one true God with a church body you are fully committed to and that is likewise fully committed to you.  I hope you were able to enjoy the company of dear family and friends in merry conversation, recreation, and feasting.  I hope you were able to worship in song, hearing of the Word, giving, serving and hospitality the God who ultimately defined self-sacrificing by coming to be God with us.

    As I am writing these words before Christmas in a post to be published after Christmas I suppose I hope these things for myself as well.

    I am certain, however, that if the Lord allows my mortal life to persist beyond Christmas Day I will also greet December 26th thoroughly glad to have the season past us.

    xmascat1

    Those readers who know me personally know that I describe myself as full of bah-humbuggery in the days leading up to Christmas.  The reason for this is that the days leading up to Christmas start so much earlier every year.  As the title of this post says, in corruption of Lewis’ famous line from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, in our world it appears it will soon be always Christmas and never winter.  I believe this year I saw Christmas decorations and advertisements before I saw the first Halloween pumpkin.  I say with almost no hyperbole whatsoever that I suspect we shall soon spend Labor Day doing our Christmas shopping.  I may live long enough, if the good Lord allows, to see Christmas connect with the sweltering heat of mid-summer and fireworks of patriotic holidays.

    What wonder I feel at the thought of Christmas has a hard time keeping its head above the deluge of cultural Christianity, so obviously far from any connection to the birth of the only Savior.  Is not what we call Christmas in these days of the West in fact an offering to the false god Mammon?

    I agree with C.S. Lewis here fully:  It [the pressure of gift-giving] gives on the whole much more pain than pleasure. You have only to stay over Christmas with a family who seriously try to ‘keep’ it (in its third, or commercial, aspect) in order to see that the thing is a nightmare. Long before December 25th everyone is worn out — physically worn out by weeks of daily struggle in overcrowded shops, mentally worn out by the effort to remember all the right recipients and to think out suitable gifts for them. They are in no trim for merry-making; much less (if they should want to) to take part in a religious act. They look far more as if there had been a long illness in the house.

    And is there a god of sentimentality?  If so he, she, or it is well represented in these days as well 1.

    These combined streams of commercialism and sappy sentimentality added to the 90 days of Christmas advertisements combine to leave me a Christmas burn out long before December 25th arrives.

    What is the answer?  I’m not sure.  I’ve joked that I’m going to consider celebrating Christmas on January 6th as part of the most historic tradition.  That, of course, is only a joke.  I am, however, not joking when I say Christmas is distressing in my personal orbit and I would love to hear how you who are less Scroogish than I manage to maintain your sanity during and affection for this [seemingly] perpetual season.

    Notes:

    1. If so I imagine Christmas Shoes would be the chief liturgical item involved in the false worship.

  9. What We Do With Santa

    December 3, 2013 by Jeff Wright

    SantaJuxtiposition

    As this Christmas approaches my children are 4 years, 2 years, and 9 months old.  That puts us smack dab in the middle of  the question about what to do with Santa.

    To Santa or Not to Santa? – A Personal Reflection

    If that isn’t a question you are familiar with let me explain: some of us Christians have wrestled with what to do with the figure of Santa when it comes to how we will celebrate Christmas in our households. 1  To be quite honest, how to handle Santa wasn’t a question for me until handful of years back.  In the midst of a conversation with a group of relatives about when it was we came realize we had spent our earliest years believing in a figure that… well… we no longer did (trying to put this delicately in the event that some reader’s child climbs onto mom or dad’s computer).

    In that conversation one of the relatives noted that after he came to a better understanding about Santa’s existence the first thought that followed was “Have mom and dad deceived me about any other unseen persons?”

    That exchanged triggered something like an alarm in my mind.  Initially my concern didn’t center on the ramifications on belief in an unseen God or a resurrected Christ who we can’t lay eyes on.  No, in that moment, my trouble was whether or not I could stand the thought that my child could ever come to realize that I had intentionally deceived them – even if that deception served to allow them a great deal of pleasure for an extended amount of time.

    From there my mind leapt to broader implication (such as I hinted at before).  Would my child, realizing I had given wrong instruction about the existence of a mythological figure (for that is just what Santa is for our age) conclude that I had also misled him about the existence of the Christian God (who is spirit and does not have a body like men) or a resurrected and reigning God-Man who had not been seen on the planet earth for approximately 2000 years?

    Where I settled is this: whether or not disillusionment about Santa ever led my children to question the true myths (I’m drawing on C.S. Lewis here if that isn’t clear) it seemed inescapable to me that the process of positing Santa to my child then allowing that illusion, as it must, to be dissipated would only,  at the very least I should say, serve to – even if only subtly – undermine the credibility of authority in the eyes of my child and this particularly on the existence of the supernatural.

    I’m sure you can imagine why I, as a Christian, would find that prospect horrifyingly dangerous to my child.  We believe that God is the ultimate authority from whom all other authorities derive and model their own smaller authorities.  Be it government or parent, we reflect on a smaller scale God’s own authority.  And if God is an authority then authority, at it’s core, must be a good thing.  And I, as a lesser authority, must strive to portray the authority I have been given in the life of my child as a good, life-giving, thing. 2

    As a matter of fact I trust that my child will have plenty reason to distrust authority arising not only from his (or her) experience of corrupt authority in this world but also from his own rebel heart.  This native tendency to distrust authority, which my child will receive from my own heart, leads him away from the good of authority into the danger of further rebellion.  I do not want to add to this tendency even one gram.  After discussion with my wife the issue was settled: we would not raise our children to believe that Santa was “real” in the sense that we, as their parents, or the roof over their heads, or the law of gravity, or God’s person, was real.

    What Do We Do Now?

    This conviction actually put us in a greater dilemma – moved from the proverbial frying pan to the fire.  You see, my wife and I are the sort who delight in good fancy.  If you will allow me to steal from Tolkien, we see myth (really, good story wedded to imagination) as a good thing – lies yes, but “lies breathed through silver.” 3  Thus we don’t naturally land, like Dana Carvey’s Saturday Night Live character The Church Lady, believing Santa to be a deceptive anagram for Satan.

    We like for children to enjoy the delight of a delightful story; we want their youngest years to be filled with wonderful naivety and joyous pretend.  I would be incredibly reluctant to deprive them of this experience unless I was forced. Would it be more or less evil to take the fun of Santa from my children than it would be to allow the later consequences to them that I mentioned above?  Is one somehow less monstrous if you deny a treat before it can be tasted, even before one is allowed to know the treat exists, than one who snatches it away after pleasure has been taken from it?

    This of course doesn’t even touch on the societal horrors our decision raised – I nearly have cold sweats when I imagine receiving the news that my child has informed the nursery, or Sunday School class, or 1st Graders that they have all been living a lie.  No, that is not the kind of sharing that I want my family to be part of.  Could it, however, be avoided?

    Then Let Us Pretend – And Allow Others Their Pretend As Well

    Eventually a solution settled in on my mind that I find acceptable. 4

    You see, my children already delight in playing pretend.  As I mention, this is something my wife and I hope to encourage as much as possible.  This Halloween came with a real treasure for us – my son received a bag full of costumes from an older boy who had outgrown them.  Thus he added to his Buzz Lightyear costume that of Spiderman, Superman, The Flash, and (as crown) Batman! 5  My daughter, in like fashion, has enough tiaras and twirly-dresses to outfit an army of princesses (or, said another way, almost the right amount).  It seems entirely natural – at least to the mind of my wife and I – to extend this delight in playing pretend to the season of Christmas and the person of Santa.

    Our family has settled in that we will discuss, imagine, and even interact with (in the form of a tray of cookies and milk lain out) Santa in this season.  We will do so in the full knowledge that we are doing this in a way just like my son dressing up as Batman or my daughter as Snow White.  And, just as they do with Batman and Snow White, my children will delight in the game and put it away to be resumed again, as a game, when the time is right.  I pray this will protect them first from the kind of disillusionment that might wound their faith in Christ and second from the harshness of a world already suffering from far too little sweet pretend.

    I realize that we have an obligation to those outside our household so we regularly remind our children that it is for the mommies and daddies of our friends to decide how their families will think about Santa and that we talk about him only as a family within our house.  This may not avoid the difficulty I have imagined; my daughter’s tongue may slip – the Kindergarten class might be scandalized despite our best efforts.  Still I hope nonetheless – in the same way a parent hopes that words heard at home by little ears which were spoken in anger over a smashed finger  might not make their way to broadcast outside the home.

    Is it enough?  Is it right?  I can only say that from where I stand it satisfies my wife and I.  Time will tell how, if at all, the strategy holds up and wins success. 6

    - – - – - – - – - – - -

    For further reading: a friend of Facebook suggested Mark Driscoll‘s post What We Tell Our Kids about Santa.

    Notes:

    1. Might I also take a moment to note that none of what I will write in my explanation is an indictment or anyone who thinks or practices differently than I?  I offer this merely as a record of my thought which serves to illustrate the dilemma.
    2. This bit is not germane to my discussion here so I mention it in foot-note: if you are unfamiliar with the Christian idea of earthly authority derived from the Heavenly Authority let me encourage you.  The reason you have so hated corruption and incompetence in the authorities you have encountered is, at least partially, because you natively sense that they should be better – specifically, they should better reflect the wisdom, integrity, and care found in God’s exercise of authority.
    3. This phrase, given to Lewis which turned out to be instrumental in his conversion is preserved in Tolkien’s On Fairy Stories which I really do recommend you read.
    4. Feel free to diagree!  This is why blogs have comment sections and why that section on my blog remains open.
    5. I might should mention that I first came to delight in mythology through the medium of comic books and hope my child will have that opportunity as well.
    6. I have hit on no solution for the problem of the well-intentioned questions in the vein of “What is Santa bringing you?” or “Did Santa bring you lots of presents?”  Currently I think it best to train my child to respond “We have been very blessed” but it smacks of disingenuity to me.  If you have a better alternative I would love to hear it.

  10. An Introduction to John Knox….

    November 24, 2013 by Jeff

    John-Knox-Manse

    … 441 years after his death.

    Knox
    Knox famously prayed to the Lord, “Give me Scotland else I die!”

    John Knox was a powerful preacher, former slave, revolutionary, Scottish Reformer, and shaper of both Modern Presbyterianism and Scotland.

    Knox was born around 1514 (3 years before Luther nailed the 95 Theses to the door of All Saints Church in Wittenburg) in the small town of Haddington, south of Edinburgh.  He began his education at 15 years of age at Saint Andrews and was ordained 7 years later.  The Catholicism of Knox’s youth was marked by great corruption, chiefly simony and immorality.  At the same time, Lutheran literature was being covertly introduced into Scotland.  Eventually (by the early 1540s) Knox came to be convinced of Reformation doctrines, particularly under the influence of Protestant preacher George Wishart.

    When the archbishop of Saint Andrews, a man by the name of Beaton, had Wishart strangled and burned a group of outraged Scotts stormed Beaton’s location in Saint Andrews Castle and executed him.  France, loyal to the Roman Catholics, besieged the group and Knox joined his fellow country men.  During a service of the Scottish Protestants the preacher, John Rough, publicly called upon Knox to take up the office of pastor – a call the congregation quickly affirmed.  Knox was reduced to tears and initially declined, eventually accepting the call.  His post was very brief.  In 1547 Saint Andrews Castle was again laid siege to by pro-Catholic forces.  This time the castle fell and Knox was forced into the life of a galley slave.

    Knox was released 19 months later but bore the physical consequences of his enforced servitude the rest of his life.  The next five years were spent in England where Knox served as a preacher and took a wife, Margary Bowes.  The ascension of Mary Tudor (Mary I of England) who was a Roman Catholic marked the end of Knox’s time in England.  He made his way to Geneva, then under the control of John Calvin (Knox arrived sometime close after the execution of Servetus) and it was there, in 1544, that he was called to pastor a group of English exiles in Frankfurt.  His tenure among that congregation ended quickly and he returned briefly to Scotland.

    By September 1556 he returned to Geneva to pastor a group of English and Italian Protestants taking refuge there.  Knox apparently enjoyed life and ministry in Geneva. 1  When the Protestant Elizabeth Tudor (Elizabeth I of England) took the throne of England Knox’s flock in Geneva prepared to return to England.  Knox himself departed for his homeland, arriving back in Scotland in 1559.  Within days of his arrival he preached an incendiary sermon at Perth that sparked a sizable riot that destroyed Catholic religious property.

    By June of 1559 Knox was elected the minister of the Edinburgh church where he worked in exposition and application to the Scottish situation.  Eventually Knox’s group helped to expel French and English interests from Scotland in 1560.  This same year Knox’s wife died.  He married again – controversially, considering that his new bride was only 17 – in 1564 and spend the next 8 years continuing the reformation in Scotland.  It was during this time that he wrote his most famous work, The History of the Reformation in Scotland.  He died on November 24th, 1572 and was laid to rest in Saint Giles’ churchyard.  James Douglas, the newly elected Regent of Scotland said at Knox’s burial, “Here lies one who never feared any flesh.”

    Knox’s legacy is seen foremost in the presbyterian movement he founded which eventually grew into the modern Presbyterian denomination which “today boasts some 750,000 Presbyterians in Scotland, 3 million in the United States, and many millions more worldwide.” 2  While Knox is not the only contributor to the growth of this denomination he is arguably its most important leader after John Calvin.  Despite Knox’s significance in shaping modern Scotland there is only one monument to him in his home country and his grave has now become part of the parking lot of Saint Giles.

    KnoxGrave

    Monergism has excellent resources (both text and audio) for more information on John Knox and the Reformation in Scotland, including links to an online copy of The History of the Reformation in Scotland.

    Notes:

    1. He famously remarked of Geneva “It is the most perfect school of Christ that ever was in the earth since the days of the Apostles. In other places I confess Christ to be truly preached; but manners and religion to be so seriously reformed, I have not yet seen in any place besides.”
    2. http://www.christianitytoday.com/ch/131christians/denominationalfounders/knox.html?start=2