Here’s an article that expands on a topic I have discussed here before.

BioLogos Guided Tours #1: Ancient Cosmology and the Bible

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The day of consolidation has come.

For the last several years I have been blogging at friday600.blogspot.com. This was intended to carry on the tradition of an AA Big Book study started in Rochester Hills, Michigan back in the 90s. Since starting Verbus, I have decided that all that content could certainly find a home here and make this blog all the better for it.

I also had another blog called bbcatholics.blogspot.com intended to bring Catholic and Evangelicals into polite discussions. That content has be imported as well.

So welcome to the new improved Verbus. Please feel free to use the search feature to locate old posts you want to revisit, or to look up posts that may have some bearing on a subject that interests you. As time permits I will also be going back and adding category tags to old posts to make it easier to search by subject matter.

And please, please sign up as a subscriber and comment on the posts. I want to create a space for lively dialog on whatever topic interests my readers.

I have decided to keep on blogging, even if I find myself speaking to an empty auditorium. At least I’m keeping a journal now.

Hope to hear from you all.

 

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This is my prayer as I begin this day

Lord, there is more to do today than I can possibly accomplish. I don’t believe that You spun the Earth too fast, so grant me the grace to do only those things You expect of me so that, when the day is over, I will know that I got everything done.

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“Mary, Did You Know?” (An a capella delight.)

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by | December 11, 2015 · 12:04 am

What do we call Jesus’ mother?

Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. — Isaiah 7:14 [emphasis mine]

And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost: And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. – Luke 1:41-42 [emphasis mine]

And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord, And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. – Luke 1:46-48 [emphasis mine]

When Protestants refer to Jesus’ mother they call her by her name, Mary. That makes sense. It was, after all, her name. But people are sometimes put off when they hear Catholics refer to her as “the Blessed Virgin Mary.” I don’t think it is wrong either way, but I do want the show that the Catholic appellation is at least consistent with Scripture.

Isaiah prophesied that “a” virgin would conceive. Not “some” or “many” virgins. So when the fulfillment of the prophecy occurred, Mary was “the” virgin whom he foretold. So it would be completely scriptural to call her “the virgin.”

The Holy Spirit, speaking through Elisabeth and Mary said that all future generations would call her “blessed.” I think that includes us. So it is scriptural to call her the “blessed virgin.” And it is common in the English language, when referring to a person of title, to attach an appellation to the title. “His Majesty, King George the First.” “The President of the United States, George W. Bush.” “The Blessed Virgin, Mary.”

Oops! Did I just use a Protestant Bible to explain a Catholic tradition? Yes, I did. Does that mean that Protestants are wrong and Catholics are right? No, it certainly  does not. Both are correct. So during this Christmas season (we call it Advent because we await His appearance) we should stop and consider how much she was favored by God and at the very least ponder in our own hearts how such a miracle could be so.

Bless you all.

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An observation on “Christmassy” music

We are bombarded by the usual overabundance of “Christmas” music. I noted some time ago that many songs had nothing to do with our Christian holiday. I have since created a classification system for the music of the season.

See if this makes sense:

Class I: Songs about Jesus or specific Christian themes.

  • Silent Night
  • Away In A Manger
  • Joy to the World
  • O Little Town of Bethlehem

Class II: Songs about the season but not specifically Christian (although they may use the word “Christmas” in them).

  • It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas
  • Deck The Halls
  • Santa Claus Is Coming To Town
  • The Christmas Song
    (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)

Class III: Winter and snow songs. (Why don’t we sing these in February when it’s really winter? Are these considered Christmas songs in Australia?)

  • Sleigh Ride
  • Frosty The Snowman
  • Jingle Bells

I hope I haven’t ruined Christmas for you. Now, every time you hear a song, you’ll be thinking “Is that a class I or II song?” Actually, it doesn’t matter. If we only hear “Frosty” during Christmas at least we only have to put up with it for a month or so.

“And though it’s been said many times, many ways, Merry Christmas to you.”

 

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Often seen at football games

16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

John 3:16 King James Version (KJV)

john316signCan the Gospel be reduced to one verse? In one sense it can. John 3:16 cuts to the very core of God’s plan of salvation: His great love for the world, His great sacrifice freely offered, and our response to that call.

On the other hand, Jesus expounds a Gospel that encompasses so much more than that. Although this verse might be sufficient to achieve salvation alone, it can not even begin to inform a Christian life.

What is the answer? Very simple.

Hold up the sign.

Jesus said that when He is lifted up (exalted) He will draw all men to Himself. But after that, we who follow Him must care for the souls drawn to Him. A “John 3:16” Christian may escape Hell, but he will not experience the joy of a Christian life and he will not be very effective in drawing still more to the Lord.

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In the beginning

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. – John 1:1-3 (NIV)

It’s terribly tempting to get into the intricate theology that is contained in these few words. And I started to do just that. But as I became more and more bogged down I realized that my real purpose here is not to instruct or convince. Rather, it is to share my thoughts. They may be insightful, they may be shallow and they may (certainly at times) be dead wrong. But in the end (no pun intended) they are mine.

I am examining this text with the benefit of centuries of Christian theology. So it is easy to read into the words meaning that wasn’t intended at the time. The Holy Spirit often does that. Holy men, as they are inspired by God, write things without always understanding what the fuller meaning of their words are. So it is here, I think. The first thing that jumps out at me is the idea of “being” and “being with” as simultaneously possible. Things, created things, can’t do that. I can’t “be” myself and “be with myself” at the same time. So John is either stating an obvious impossibility, or he is more likely stating something much more profound, namely that the Word is not a created thing, that the Word is in fact God. This meshes perfectly with the more fully developed doctrine of the Trinity which will not be elaborated until the fourth century. God is both Himself and His Word: they exist in perfect unity yet they are distinct.

The “word” he is referring to is the Greek word “logos.” Without getting into all the finer philosophical points, one of the obvious meanings of that word to readers at that time would have been the Greek philosophical concept of the logos as the active creative principle in the universe. And that is pretty much the meaning that John is conveying. God, the Word, creates all that there is by His Word. That’s a pretty obvious theme in the Old testament. “God said ‘Let there be light, and there was light’.” It was God’s Word that was the active agent of creation. We see this in verse three and also in this well-known passage from Isaiah.

11 So is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

Isaiah 55:11 (NIV)

“In the beginning” is the opening both of this Gospel as well as Genesis. John is talking about the time before creation. But we now know that time and space are two different ways of looking at the same thing. Physicists use the term “space-time” to refer to the matrix of being in which we exist. I believe that prior to creation there was neither space nor time. It makes no more sense to ask “when” the universe was created than to ask “where” it was created. There was no “where” there and there was no “when” then. We’re dipping our toes into that arcane subject called ontology, the philosophy of “being.” One of the main questions ontology addresses is  “Why is there ‘is’ “?” Obviously the kind of “being” God possesses  is profoundly different than what we perceive to be “being.”  (What an unavoidable  swarm of bees.) The existential theologian Paul Tillich approached it this way:

Paul Tillich was critical of the view of God as a type of being or presence. He felt that, if God were a being, God could not then properly be called the source of all being (due to the question of what, in turn, created God). As an alternative, he suggested that God be understood as the “ground of Being-Itself”.

http://religiousnaturalism.org/god-as-ground-of-being-paul-tillich/

Or as another Paul (the apostle) put it when expounding the Gospel among the philosophers at the Areopagus , “For in him we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:28) (He is quoting the Cretan philosopher Epimenides.) The word “ground” here is taken is the artistic sense of figure and ground. In other words, the variation (figure) is only possible against the unchanging ground. A black stroke on canvas exists because it is something other than canvas. Analogies can be helpful if not carried too far. Think of a glassy smooth body of water. No motion, no disturbance of any kind. And then think of a ripple moving across the water. The ripple exists but it only exists as a change of the otherwise unchanging water. The water s the ground and the ripple is the figure. By extension, then, our “being” is nothing more (or less) than a ripple on the ground of God’s being. We know that God is unchanging in His essence but he is also omnipotent and therefore unconstrained by His own nature. And here we come to the mystery of creation. Why, if God is complete in Himself, does He choose to create? Why is there “is?”

 

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Opening thoughts, quirks and admonitions

So here I am again, firing up another blog. It can be said that one only fails when one stops trying. I’m still trying so I guess I’m not yet a failed “bloggist.” My other blogging experiences were frustrating. One was ignored (not uncommon) and the other was well-liked and read regularly. But I never received any comments. If I wanted to record my thoughts in a vacuum I could just have as easily done my writing in Word. But I want and need comments. So I depend on you who read this to contribute something, even if it’s just a brief note of approval/disapproval.

This particular blog grew out of the very pleasant exchanges I had over two years with my two speech therapists. I spent an hour twice a week hooked up to an electrical machine that still allowed me to talk. Very dangerous. Not the machine, of course. The part about allowing me to talk. And talk we did on a wide range of subjects. I know very, very little about many, many things and I am always keen on having an audience on which to demonstrate that. So our topics behaved like a non-linear system (which was, ironically, one of the topics), chaotic yet pleasantly so. We were usually around the areas of religion and spiritual development, science and math, and on rare occasions, politics as long as we agreed (which we did).

I assume that my two friends will be joining me here and hope that at least a few people will join us. Since the blog is private you won’t be able to find it by Googling it. Therefore I will need some word-of-mouth to add to our numbers. If you enjoy participating, invite your friends. Heck, invite your enemies. Sometimes they make some good points.

My friends are beginning a study of the book of John which is something about which I can say a few things . I don’t intend to do a detailed commentary. There are plenty out there to suit whatever hermeneutical inclinations you might have. I intend only to offer my limited understanding of Scripture in the hope that some light might arise both for me and my commentators.

I make no bones about my religious beliefs. I am Roman Catholic, a convert from a bible-believing Evangelical world. So I do know the book pretty well. I have no interest in converting anyone, and I’m willing to air all points of view. I won’t, however, allow this to become a debating society where more heat than light is generated. So feel free to strongly express your opinions. I will respect them, as I hope you will respect mine.

And so, as they say, on with the show. New post to follow soon.

 

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Welcoming the rationalist

I have invited Malibu Bob from christiannews.net to join us here. Among his posts Bob said the following:

Christianity is so unbelievable and so contrary to everyday observation on its surface, that the only way in which people can maintain such an untenable set of beliefs is by constant reinforcement.

That’s a pretty big challenge and one that I feel would be better addressed by breaking it into it a set of questions that can be approached more succinctly. So here’s how I think it should go. Bob may feel differently.

  1. The supernatural: Is there a “reality” not readily accessible to human perception? Or at the very least, is it even possible to prove that one way or the other?
  2. If such a thing may exist, then does God exist or is it even possible to prove that as well?
  3. If God exists, what is his/her/its relationship to the natural world and to us human beings?
  4. What is the nature of man and how does it relate to God’s nature?
  5. If man is imperfect, in what ways have we sought to achieve perfection?
  6. Finally, if God exists and it is not in our power to achieve perfection, what means have we been given to do so?

So to kick things off, let’s talk about that which is contrary to everyday observation, namely question one. What does Bob have to say about the possibility of the supernatural?

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