Archive for March, 2013

Jesus Wife: A Current Claim

It has happened again. They have “found” an “ancient” Coptic writing that “proves” Jesus had a wife. Since this revelation contradicts the Bible image of Jesus it is getting broad distribution in certain critical secular circles. This in spite of the scholars who presented the discovery at the International Association of Coptic Studies in Rome downplaying any possible link between the Coptic fragment and the Jesus of the canonical gospels.

The papyrus fragment on which the conclusion is reached is the size of a business card and contains only eight lines. Scholars are divided on whether the fragment is an authentic ancient text or a modern forgery. Therefore, the reliability of the text is greatly disputed if not totally discredited.

Dr. James Leonard who studies the Coptic language at Cambridge University said even if it is authentic it has no historical value in understanding Jesus because it was written four hundred years after Jesus lived.

Dr. Karen King, the Harvard scholar who has studied the manuscript, agrees with Leonard’s conclusion. She said it does not provide historical reliable data concerning Jesus. Little is known about the fragment’s origin and its owner has not been identified.

King is of the opinion the text has been culled from fragments of other discredited documents and compiled by a person of a more modern era.

Doctors Francis Watson of Durham University and Simon Gathercole of Cambridge having studied the text identified what they believe are evidences of forgery. One factor is the text gives evidence of having been written by a modern author rather than an ancient native Coptic linguist.

Having seen a photocopy of the document it seems strange that the fragment is centered around the word “wife.” It is as though the surrounding text were constructed to frame the word. It is a subtle way to highlight it. It isn’t clear how “wife” was allegedly being used. Was it a statement alleged to have been made by Jesus acknowledging He had a wife or was it a quote He was using regarding another person’s wife?

Bottom line, it is yet another attempt to discredit Jesus and dispute the Bible record of His life. Jesus is as one the world’s most loved and hated, even feared, character. Detractors make every effort to impugn his nature and character.

If, as many believe, He was Immanuel, God with us, He has every reason to feel like a billboard which depicts Him as saying: “Don’t Make Me Have To Come Down There.”

If the work is by a modern forger I hope he might have an experience like that of a lawyer, a Union General who fought along with General William T. Sherman at Shiloh. He set out to research the resurrection in order to disprove it. His findings turned on him and he become a believer. He spent seven years writing a novel centered around the result of his research. His name: Lew Wallace. His novel: “Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ.”

The Greatest Football Team of All Time

The college football season is finally over with may fans having looked in more bowls than a plumber. Exciting teams and new records set will provide lingering heroics. If we think the Alabama Crimson Tide football team was good, consider this team. It ranks right up there with Notre Dame’s “Four Horsemen of the 1920s,” Fordham’s “Seven Rocks of Granite of the 1930s,” the LSU “Chinese Bandits of the late 1950s, Georgia’s “Junkyard Dogs of the 1960s and 70s, and the Nebraska Blackshirts of the 1990s. It is the team that justifiably became known as the “Iron Men” of Sewanee University, also known as the University of the South.

I visited the lovely campus recently and strolled over to their playing field. It was a quiet time on campus and noting a flagpole and monument, I went to view it. It is a tribute to the legendary Sewanee “Tigers” of 1899. That was the year they went 12- 0 and outscored their opponents 322 to 10. Keep in mind all 10 points were scored by one team. That means they were 11-1 in shutouts. That is remarkable, but there is an even more remarkable feature of the season.

In a row they defeated Texas A & M, Texas, LSU, Tulane, and Ole Miss. Even more remarkable they played all five teams in six days. Between November 9, and November 14, they shutout all five.

The three teams they defeated before going on the road were Tennessee, Georgia, and Georgia Tech.
Compounding their play was the arduous nature of traveling 2,500 miles by train, which itself had to be fatiguing.

Still used as a recruiting tool is the sage expression: “Five wins in six days, and then they rested.”

Not really. Their first home game was six days after returning from this whirlwind road trip.. They closed their season with wins against Auburn and North Carolina. The Auburn team they defeated was coached by John Heisman, after whom the Heisman Trophy is named. Auburn was the only team to score on them all season.

Soon thereafter Sewanee became a co-founder of the Southeastern Conference.

Tony Barnhart, “Atlanta Journal-Constitution” sports writer lists them “Number One” on his all-time Southern football team. Compared with their contemporary competitors they were the University of Alabama upscaled.

The nature of the school makes this accomplishment even more distinct. It was and is an Episcopal school. One of the founders was Bishop Leonidas Polk, later a Confederate General killed in Cobb County. Members of the team were aspiring ministers. Now as then the school was known for its academic excellence. In the ensuing years the school has had twenty-five Rhodes Scholars.

They remain one of the most accomplished sports teams ever. They stand as a peerless example of athletics and academics coalescing. It is an idea whose hour of resurrection as come.

It is the synergy being created at Shorter University in Rome with the plus of spiritual enhancement.

Shorter University: A Faith Based School

There was a “Vent” in “The Atlanta Journal” recently that surely must have stirred controversy. It simply said, “Atheists do have churches. They are called colleges.”

First, a disclaimer. I don’t want to paint with a brush too broad. There are some very capable academicians who have strong personal faith and adhere to biblical ethics and morality. They are often lights shining in the darkness.

It would be difficult to develop a thesis that proves most colleges are in general not bastions of political, social, and spiritual liberalism.

Often a faculty member, shielded by tenure, goes extremely rogue. There are those professors who delight in trying to destroy the values with which students have been reared.

In general society has grown to expect and accept humanistic philosophy as the collegiate norm. If temporal schools, called “churches” in the “Vent,” are permitted to propagate their gospel why can’t faith based universities share their faith without castigation.

An action not intended to be an experiment proves a point. Shorter University in Rome issued a statement of faith and a code of conduct recently. Some honorable faculty members disapproved and would not subscribe to the policies. They exercised their liberty and left. I know most of them and personally hold them in high regard. Their integrity in standing for their convictions is to be admired. Likewise, the administration, trustees and constituents are to be respected and admired for standing for their convictions.

Shorter desired to provide a synergy of faith and learning.

SACS, the ultimate authority in college conduct, noted the school being an independent faith based school was within its rights in establishing the statement and code.

The departure of a significant number of faculty left a lot of vacancies. The question was would it be possible to find creditable scholars with prestigious degrees who subscribe to the standards of the school to replace them.

Surprise! For every vacancy there was an average of five applicants with terminal degrees from reputable academic institutions. Most of them had been teaching in Division I schools making much more money than a private school can pay. With regard to that, to the person, they said they were willing to teach for less money in a place where they can apply their faith in their academic field.

As illustration of the type faculty members being attracted two are noted. One is a PhD in bio-chemistry who has been working with the CDC for several years.

In conversation with another I mentioned I would love for a course on the Constitution to be taught. She replied, “I am a PhD from the University of Virginia and was a James Madison Fellow. I would love to teach it.”
The fact these came from secular universities indicates there are persons of faith who hold traditional values in such schools though they are not the norm.

Persons desiring a reputable degree offered in a school where faith and scholarship coalesce should consider Shorter University in Rome, Georgia.

Church Growth

Within the sphere of the readers of this paper are some splendid churches that have found a spiritual need niche and are admirably filling it. They are reaching people and ministering to them. These churches come in varying sizes and use different styles of worship. But, then…. Well, first this.

Reputedly an old Quaker was awakened by a would be burglar in his house. He got his shotgun, went down stairs, flipped on the light and stood facing the intruder to whom he said, “I would not hurt thee for the world, but thou art standing where I am about to shoot.” The pastors and people to whom the following applies with have one of several responses. Some will be in denial and declare it doesn’t apply to them. Some might very well get angry. Others with exonerate themselves explaining why they can’t change. Another group will conclude the insights were shared in good faith and respond in a productive way. First, you can’t be a New Testament church in a growing urban community such as our and not grow. In summary the church is mandated to reach, teach, win, and develop people. Where that is done there is growth. Conversely where there is no growth that church is failing to live up to their commission.

Excellence is shown by the attention given to little things. Start at the front door. Explain to your greeters how important their role is. Train them in detail as to what to do and say. We visit many churches and have heard offensive comments. “What are you doing here?” is common. One church where I have preached several times has a big greeter if someone perfunctorily says, “How are you?” actually says, “I am happier that a fat pig in the sunshine.” Another brags his response is, “I tell ‘um if they can’t tell by looking there is no reason for me to tell them.”

Leaders for God’s sake, that is not blasphemy, I mean literally for the sake of God program for the needs of the people not your personal desire. Most churches that are growing are relatively new starts. One reason why older ones aren’t growing is their membership has grown old. When it comes to making changes to meet needs that have changed that is a two sided coin. These older people must not be disenfranchised. They deserve to be ministered to. At all cost minister to them. Let them know they are wanted and needed, not overlooked. On the other hand they need to be led to see what the needs of the emerging generation are and what it takes to reach them.

Little things impress people in a big way. Start and stop on time. Whatever you do, do it as unto the Lord, that is, as nearly perfect as possible. Pastors purge your default statements from your vocabulary. Don’t say “Amen” every time you are trying to cover a verbal glitch. Expunge “Uh” from your mental dictionary. Even if you have to have a family member or friend count how many times you use it to develop avoiding it. Be the best speaker possible. Be prepared. Don’t preach because you have to say something. Preach because you have something to say that the people NEED to hear. Know and love your people so you will be aware of what spiritual, cultural, emotional, social, and personal needs you need to address. Church leaders need to meet and ask themselves some hard questions and deal with some difficult issues in order to fulfill their function. I share this encouragement. You can do it.

How Greed Hurts individuals and America

What is one thing greatly eviscerating our society. Here is a hint. It is a spiritual problem succinctly identified long ago. Here is another hint. It is sometimes called a green eyed monster. It is greed. The laconic historical depiction is, “The love of money is the root of all evil.”

Individually and as a society we are victims of the “more is better, but more is never good enough” syndrome. Untethered greed is the cause of corporate scandals, crooked politicians, classroom cheating, sexual indiscretion, impropriety in the faith community, and personal conflicts. With it so well defined not even the faith community is immuned. Not only are individuals guilty of it, but so are institutions and governments. Councils, conference rooms, and courtrooms are crowded by persons wanting more.

Often conflicts could be avoided if disputing parties were to lay aside greed and negotiate in good faith.
The following solution has been proposed. “The budget should be balanced, the Treasury should be refilled, public debt should be reduced, the arrogance of officialdom should be tempered and controlled, and the assistance to foreign lands should be curtailed lest Rome become bankrupt. People must again learn to work, instead of living on public assistance.”

That is not a reference to Rome, Georgia. It was written of ancient Rome by Cicero in 55 B.C. Some things are constant.

There are a few words that describe how we got in our current quandary. Some are: greed racheted up to rapacity and avarice, a lack of integrity and eroded honesty, covetousness, gluttony, voracity, and a colloquialism, “the gimmies.”

One study shows greed is not primarily a desire for money, but for the things money can get, such as, acceptance, power, influence, popularity, prestige, and clout.

Greed is a merciless master, a tyrannical taskmaster.

Patience, temperance, and self-discipline are essential to finding the desired state of being more elusive than a butterfly.

That state is contentment. Many in our society, and the society of many cultures, have been led to believe “things” afford contentment. NO! Write it across the horizon of your mind from heaven to earth — no, they don’t. Our attitude regarding them does.

Consider these words of a sage who had position, prominence, power, and possessions, but not contentment until . . . .

“We brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and have pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”

Then, he nailed it, “Now, godliness with contentment is great gain.”

It was the Apostle Paul who recorded that profound insight in I Timothy 6: 6-10.

This is not an anti-wealth article, for it is “God who gives us the ability to get wealth.” This is an encouragement to find the contentment that comes from the right attitude and use of money.