Headlines (December 7)

The Birth of Jesus – The current issue of Newsweek has a lengthy article about Jesus, subtitled From Mary to the manger, how the Gospels mix faith and history to tell the Christmas story and make the case for Christ. Among the interested tidbits in the article is this statement. “A NEWSWEEK Poll found that 84 percent of American adults consider themselves Christians, and 82 percent see Jesus as God or the son of God. Seventy-nine percent say they believe in the virgin birth, and 67 percent think the Christmas story – from the angels’ appearance to the Star of Bethlehem – is historically accurate.” I was surprised to find the following statement as well: “This is no small difference. By asserting Mary’s virginity, Matthew and Luke are taking the device of the miraculous conception farther than any other Jewish writer had before. Why? The simplest explanation is that it happened. As uncongenial as that opinion may be to modern audiences, Shakespeare was right when he had Hamlet say, ‘There are more things in heaven and earth … than are dreamt of in your philosophy.’ The miraculous may strike some as fantastical, but countless people have believed, and believe now, that God intervened in the temporal world in just this way.” However, they promptly undid any benefit in that statement by saying “If we assume, for the sake of argument, that the virginal conception is not a fact but an article of faith, there are other explanations for Matthew’s and Luke’s Nativity accounts.” And so on. The article is a strange mix of truth (though not very much), fiction, Catholicism, Protestantism and Dan Brown. You can read it here. Interestingly, Time also has Jesus on the cover of this week’s issue. Unfortunately it is currently available only to subscribers.

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Friends Jealous of Your Money? – MSN featured an article yesterday that helps you know what to do when your financial situation causes jealously among your friends and family. “Success with money can sometimes cause financial envy. Here’s what to say when strangers demand your net worth and family calls you ‘moneybags.'” I do not know of anyone who is jealous of my financial situation, but if you just have too much money, maybe this article can help you out.

Reformed Churches And Images – Christianity Today has an article about the way Reformed Christians are returning to allowing images in worship, not as objects of worship, but as aids to worship. As I read the article I thought immediately of the Heidelberg Catechism, which I memorized many years ago, and question and answer 98. “But may not images be tolerated in the churches, as books to the laity? No: for we must not pretend to be wiser than God, who will have his people taught, not by dumb images, but by the lively preaching of his word.”

Of course most of the author’s proof comes from liberal sources – a pastor who leads a church called Warehouse 242 in which “no worship service is complete until the congregation has pondered not just the Word proclaimed but also the Word illustrated through a homegrown photograph, painting, or film clip.” “We believe the Reformers missed something big,” he says. “When we limit the gospel message to the written and spoken text, we short-circuit it. We truncate it…The soul is moved by more things than the word.” They speak to another pastor who likes to play movie clips in church, even such things as When Harry Met Sally, a movie of questionable virtue. Someone else says “The sermon is providing commentary on the image, and the image is providing commentary on the sermon,” said Matthew Myer Boulton, assistant professor of preaching and worship at Andover Newton and an associate pastor at Hope Church. “It’s not that the Reformed tradition is being lost but it’s being brought into dialogue with other traditions.”

The great misunderstanding occurs right here: “In the final analysis, some Reformed preachers argue, what mattered most to Reformers was to make the life-changing Word of God as accessible as possible.” Have these people read the Reformers? Do they not know anything about the Reformation? Were the Reformers interested in making the Word of God accessible? Of course they were! But they were predominantly interested in truth! They would never have budged on the issue of accessibility if truth were to suffer. Here’s the rub. If you are going to use visuals in your church, go ahead, but don’t do it under the guise of honoring the intentions of the Reformers. Just leave those men out of this!