The Scale of the Universe and the Religious View

Who is the protagonist of Hamlet? It seems pretty obvious that it is the dark prince himself, but I am sure you can imagine a clever reader making a case that it is really Ophelia, or Claudius, or some other important character. What would you say to someone who said that the protagonist was actually Cornelius, the Danish envoy to Norway, whose one line is shared with someone else? Continue Reading »

Salt of the Earth

Salt of the earth” is one of the best-known phrases in the Bible, but it’s more enigmatic than we realize. Salt has many qualities, and it’s not clear which one Jesus is highlighting. Does Jesus want disciples to preserve the world? Are disciples as necessary to the world as salt is to life? Are disciples the seasoning on a main course dished up by someone else? Continue Reading »

God of Fire, Man of Prayer

Birmingham is a post-Civil War city founded in 1871 in response to the discovery of one of the world’s richest mineral deposits of iron, coal, and limestone. The abundance of these raw materials led to a thriving steel industry, and Birmingham became the “Pittsburgh of the South.” In the early twentieth century, the leaders of Birmingham commissioned a statue of Vulcan, the Roman god of fire and the forge, to represent the city at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis. Today, Vulcan stands 56-feet tall high atop Red Mountain overlooking the city, a symbol of Birmingham’s history. Colossus-like, Vulcan is the largest cast-iron statue in the world, welcoming thousands of visitors every day from near and far. Continue Reading »

Looking East

Turning to Tradition by d. oliver herbel oxford, 256 pages, $27.95 In 2010, Eastern Orthodox Christians in America awoke to a painful realization—there aren’t very many of us. Since the 1920s, various prelates and the pages of archdiocesan yearbooks have claimed that there were as many . . . . Continue Reading »

Toasting Jesus

At an evangelical gathering on a New Year’s Eve, someone stood to announce that he wanted to toast us all. We sipped from our glasses of sparkling apple cider as he expressed his wishes for our collective good health for the coming year. Then someone else spoke up: “Now please join me in a toast to Jesus!” Continue Reading »

Spurgeon at Year’s End

Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892) was a cigar-smoking Baptist pastor in Victorian London whose influence, even in his own lifetime, extended far beyond the bounds of his own nation and denomination. Known as “the boy wonder of the fens” for his notable preaching in the villages of Cambridgeshire, Spurgeon took London by storm when he was only nineteen years of age. Continue Reading »

Christmas and the Humbling of the Wise Men

It might seem that everything that could be said, has been said, about the shepherds, the wise men and the Christ Child. But that’s one of the marvels of Scripture: The unfolding history of the Church draws out of the inspired Word of God allegories and images previously unrecognized. Thus the familiar Christmas story and its well-known cast of characters shed light on a year in which the Church has been roiled by contention between today’s shepherds and today’s Magi: between those who, today, hear angels singing, and those whose experience of the faith has been thoroughly “demythologized” and intellectualized. Continue Reading »