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« Tonight's Academy Class -- Jesus Christ, the True Israel | Main | The Canons of Dort, Second Head of Doctrine, Article Nine »

Warring Monks, Front Row Seats for the Second Advent and Other Weird Stuff from Around the Web

So, while monks fight over access to the roof, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher is falling apart.  A recent article from the Times Online contains this gem.  "The church has been vigilantly managed by six competing and often fractious Christian denominations — Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox, Coptic, Syrian Orthodox and Ethiopian — since an agreement reached under Ottoman law in 1757. Rival denominations often battle for access or space and the congregation at the annual Easter service sometimes resembles the terraces of a boisterous football match. The keys to the main entrance of the church have been held by a Muslim family since the 12th century because the Christians do not trust one another."  I've been there, and witnessed this on-going feud firsthand.  Amazing.   Click here: Warring monks threaten destruction of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre - Times Online

Here's a piece from the Jerusalem Post (a rather respected publication), on how land prices near the temple mount will skyrocket because of speculators wanting a front row seat for the Second Advent.  You just can't make this stuff up.  And people ask me why I am interested in eschatology.  Let me just say, keeping up with this stuff is never dull.  Click here: When the Messiah comes... | Jerusalem Post

Here's an interesting essay on two-kingdom responsibilities (specifically voting) from a Lutheran perspective (Uwe Siemon-Netto).  Click here: The Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod - The Lutheran Witneness

Think about this headline for a moment . . .  What a novel idea????  Who would have thunk????  Click here: CNS STORY: Pope emphasizes that theology, Scripture must go hand in hand

Reader Comments (10)

If you listen to any Christian radio (which I try to mostly avoid), you will get the impression that God is either a Republican or a Democrat.

I figured, if any one would have been able to sort out this confusion long before this mess ever started, it would have certainly been the great Reformer, Dr. Martin Luther. Here are some quotes from Luther on the matters of church and state:

"To the end of the world men should not mix these two powers as was done at the time of the Old Testament among the Jewish people. But they must remain severed and separated from each other if we are to preserve the true Gospel and the true faith."

"And whoever is a preacher should leave the temporal government in peace so that he does not create confusion and disorder. For men are to rule the church with the Word, or the sword of the mouth, and are to use the rod of the mouth. Temporal government, however, has a different sword, the sword of the fist and a rod of wood, with which it beats the body. But the rod of the preacher strikes consciences alone, which feels what one says. Therefore we must distinguish between these two rods and swords so that one does not trespass upon the office of the other."

Luther, says that the devil has a hand in this mess, "The devil does all this. He takes no holiday until he has mixed the two swords."

Luther continues, "One is forever trespassing on the other's domain. To be able clearly to distinguish between these two kingdoms is a great art, for few people make the proper distinction. This is what commonly happens; the temporal lords want to rule the church, and, conversely, the theologians (die Geistlichen) want to play the lord in the town hall. The devil always wants to cook and brew these two kingdoms into one mess."

Luther also says that the church is by far the more important institution. "Therefore temporal power is a very small matter in the eyes of God and is far too slightly regarded by Him that for its sake, whether it does right or wrong, we should resist, become disobedient and at odds with it. Conversely, the spiritual power is an exceedingly great blessing and is considered far too precious by God for even the lowliest Christian to tolerate it and keep silent if it departs a hairs-breadth from its specific duty, not to say when it runs counter to its duty, as we now see it do every day."

There is much more by Luther (the master of the two kingdom theology) on this issue than I can quote here. This is must reading for all pastors, politicians and citizens alike. Oh, do we need to have our categories in proper order.

As usual, Luther is about 1,000 years ahead of our time.
October 17, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterLloyd
Siemon-Netto says,

"Church-owned publications cannot endorse political candidates. Of course, we have a clear position on issues of theological concern, such as the sanctity of life and of marriage as the union between one man and one woman. But The Lutheran Witness would be wrong to tell Washington how to fight wars in the Middle East, end the immigration quagmire, or salvage Social Security. Such problems cannot be resolved by faith but only by reason, a gift from God to help us function in this world. The church ought to tell secular rulers to use this gift wisely."

How are “sanctity of life and marriage” issues more theological than war and taxes? Either they are all theological—which gets us into the transformationalist mess we’re already in—or they all are subject to natural law. But you can’t drive a stake between them and cordon some issues off. Or do we still imagine that we’ll get anywhere with those who don’t share our theological persuasions? My suspicion is that to claim some issues as theological is to reserve high-octane power against those with whom one disagrees for fear of losing the day on something on which one feels quite strongly. And that’s a bad thing.

There are a lot of good ideas from this Lutheran, of course. But, in general, I always hesitate when voting is cast as an ordained task from on high instead of simply a necessary tool to make a liberal democracy work. In the latter view, this ratchets down the stakes of voting while at the same time allowing it to retain its God-ordained dignity; and, for those so inclined, not voting becomes simply a bad idea instead of impiety. He may rightly take lefties and righties to task for baptizing certain ideological agendas, but he flirts with the very same as he over-realizes the act of voting itself. Liberal democracies are no more specially ordained of God than dictatorships or monarchies. But when liberal democracy is seen as a special gift of God, and voters are framed as “priests of God” instead of citizens in a particular slice in the kingdom of man under Christ’s Lordship, what are believers in other kingdoms which are just as ordained of God, second-class priests?
October 17, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterZrim
Even though I am Lutheran I have to admit that Zrim makes some very valid points here. I am not sure what is the proper perspective to take. This Two-Kingdom theology issue needs a lot more dialog among the differing reformational perspectives. A lot of the discussion on the Issues etc. program is taking the position of Mr. Siemon Netto- especially in regards to the sanctity of life and family issues (gay marriage etc.). Michael Horton had an interesting conversation about this with his political panel on the White Horse Inn a couple weeks back. They briefly touched on this gay marriage issue also.
October 17, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJohn Yeazel

If we Reformed are right about criticizing evangelicals’ practice of doling out voters’ guides, I am not so sure how it follows that certain Lutherans are given a pass for “priests of God-Christian duty to vote” stuff. After all, when I was an evangelical those voters’ guides were pretty neutral, etc.; nobody was specifically endorsing anything. It was all justified, in fact, by what seems to be Siemon-Netto’s same point: more than a secular burden, voting is over-realized as a sacred duty. And since everyone is told how to think politically in other venues, voila, a voting block in born and nobody loses their tax-exempt status. It’s pretty crafty that way. Not exactly kosher, but crafty nevertheless.

It is ironic how ostensibly conservative religious views look a lot like secular utopian ones that seem to think political action can do more than that for which it was ordained, like getting us from today to tomorrow in one piece instead of bringing about ultimate change. But if secular utopianism is misguided it isn’t clear to me how this “priests of God” language is any different.
October 17, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterZrim

From what I have heard and read from Mr. Siemon-Netto he seems to like playing to role of a Grandpa exhorting his son to spank his Grand kids more. Granted, he may be right, but it seems to me he borders on arrogance much of the time. Living in Germany like he does with the memory of what Hitler did to the country I guess I can understand why he draws the conclusions he does. He likes to condescend to Americans which I can also understand but it rubs me the wrong way many times. That is just my opinion for what its worth.

Can you really blame Germans who were indifferent to the rise of Hitler and uninvolved in the political process on what happened there? I think you have to blame the Church and how they quashed the Gospel with their pietism and the huge amount of intellectual arrogance which permeated the culture. Anyways, I am getting off the point.

I am getting more and more drawn to the complete separation of theological thinking in the left hand kingdom and letting natural law be the only valid mode of discussion in that realm. Christians arrogantly talking from on high really does no good in the political realm. Christians just need to form relationships with others around issues which have nothing to do with any type of theological persuasion. I think we would develop much more trust with those in the political process if that was our approach. Unbelievers are just as capable of coming up with reasonable and just laws as Christians are.
October 17, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJohn Yeazel
I guess I should say that unbelievers are just as capable of coming up with reasonable and just laws and policies as Christians are.
October 17, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJohn Yeazel
Your point about utopianism and the role of politics as getting us from today to tomorrow in one piece is also well put. We can all band together around those issues and prevent those who want to use politics as a means of pushing their agenda's on anyone out of the political process. Promoting justice and defending the citizens carries with it no ideological position.
October 17, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJohn Yeazel

It is scary for many to let natural law do its work because something might go wrong. But every day my eyes, mind, conscience, feet, etc. let me down. I don't think the answer is to look for their substitutes but to plod ahead as best I can. In the same way, when we employ the Bible for temporal ends we actually show less faith, not more. Which is why calling "marriage issues" theological concerns is less Christian, not more.
October 17, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterZrim
When promoting justice does involve differing ideological persuasions on certain issues we can at least involve ourselves in reasoned dialog about it which is what the political and democratic process is all about.
October 17, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJohn Yeazel
"I guess I should say that unbelievers are just as capable of coming up with reasonable and just laws and policies as Christians are."

It's the photo-negative of that statement which concerns me more: we're all equally as good at coming up with unreasonable and unjust laws and policies!
October 17, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterPhilip Walker

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