From The Browser, an interview with Paula Fredriksen and recommended books—the opening question:
Before we look at your five book choices, how would you define sin?
I think three elements recur in discussions about sin. The first is a human moral agent. The second is some sort of revealed standard of behaviour. And in the West, of course, the third component is God – “sin” would be the human violation of a divine command. But modernity isn’t antiquity. “God” is a concept that’s been out of focus in Western culture since Nietzsche, and in modern Western democracies legislation draws on traditions other than the Bible. The civil idea of “crime” is quite different from the religious idea of “sin”. And, of course, depending on your point of view, something can be a crime without being a sin, and a sin without being a crime.
If you do anything this weekend, spend a few minutes with this absolute must-must-must-read short story from the great Ray Bradbury, written… last year (his 89th on THIS planet). Needless to say, it has caused a little stir among his fanbase, as it is so, well, you’ll see.
Found at New American: “Christianity is under attack yet again, this time with the publication of a new book depicting Jesus Christ as a homosexual drug addict. Entitled The Final Testament of the Holy Bible and scheduled for publication on Good Friday, the book is written by James Frey, the notorious author of the controversial “non-fiction” book A Million Little Pieces, which was later exposed as a fictional tale.”
Orthodox Catholics may appreciate this important work more than modern progressive Methodists—where the dreaded “E” word is seldom if ever spoken.
However one defines the term “evangelism,” I think it’s fair to agree with the introduction that, since the 60’s, it has often been characterized as “a self-serving, game-playing exercise, concerned only with numbers in terms of conversions and confessions of faith.” As proof, this evangelism business has made quite a few evangelists rich playing the numbers game; and, of course, most of us can recall at least some of the news-grabbing Christian evangelist scandals of history, which justifiably cause reluctance to more charitable views of evangelism. But Outler’s work gives one a sense of the word as rightly understood.
The Will of God, by Leslie D. Weatherhead (1893-1976), was written in 1944 and at only fifty-six pages long (my old publication), it remains a classic in helping to get one’s thinking right about this subject. The book is actually a series of five sermons given at a very difficult time in England, “relevant to these days of loss and sorrow,” yet also relevant to our current time of war and despicable world events.
Weatherhead says the phrase is used too loosely; often, after some horrible tragedy, someone will say, “It is the will of God.” Weatherhead then offers a logical thought process which in essence says that one should not identify the will of God as something for which a man would be locked up! He argues that there are three distinct kinds of will:
“Sixties rock deity Jim ‘The Lizard King’ Morrison’s bloated corpse was found in a Parisian bathtub in 1971, but apparently his soul had been writhing in restless torment until last Thursday, when lame-duck Florida Governor Charlie Crist finally pardoned him for allegedly flashing his dingus at a Miami audience in 1969.”
He then goes on to give the reader a history of apologies for sins committed decades or centuries earlier as though they actually meant something. They, of course, do: They make the apologizer feel good. To me, they also seem to be maudlin attempts to be viewed as a “sensitive person” for some personal aggrandizement.
I read this book two years after it came out, after all the hype had died down. I’m not one of those that goes to movies at their premier showing nor do I read the latest hot seller when it’s hot. I read this because my wife recommended it. It’s fast moving thriller about Robert Langdon, a symbologist from Harvard, who goes to Paris for a meeting with the curator at the Louvre that ends up being murdered by an albino monk before the meeting ever takes place. Accused of the crime, Robert ends up on the run from the French police with the curator’s cryptologist granddaughter, Sophie. But the wise old curator left clues to a great secret in his dying moments so the chase is really about Robert and Sophie trying to find the Holy Grail while the police are trying to find them.