St. Jerome, the Complicated Christian

St Jerome, by Leonello Spada; public domain via wikimedia commons

Today the Western Church commemorates St. Jerome (c. 347-420). What a complicated fellow. First passionate about secular literature, he gave it up to be a scholar of the Bible and a leader in the ascetic life. Absolutely counter-cultural -- but maybe this Doctor of the Church still has things to teach us. He was controversial Like so many in his era he had a powerful ascetic … [Read more...]

Okay, Why “Trespasses,” “Debts” and “Sins”? (Heidelberg Catechism Q119)

Early printed parchment leaf, probably from a missal, by POP, cc license

One peril of visiting a new church comes when it is time to pray. At least if the congregation of a traditional flavor they will wrap up with something like “Now let join our voices in the prayer Christ himself has taught us, saying…” It all goes fine for a while: …Father… ...Name... …kingdom… …will… …daily bread… But then that awkward moment: what will we ask … [Read more...]

How to Organize Your Faith (Heidelberg Catechism Q24)

Hooks, by Kurtis Garbutt, cc license

Shhh! A whole lot of Christians are quietly afraid that someday, someone will ask them about their faith. We need some outline points, like the pegs on a coat rack. No hooks and you just have a pile of stuff on the floor. Add a row of pegs and you can hang up a whole lot of stuff in an understandable orderly way. The Heidelberg Catechism (the 450 year old … [Read more...]

Found on the Church Doorstep — Wishing for St. Francis of Assisi

Forty-Three Cents

As I was leaving church with my son I looked down. There was something shiny on the ground. A bullet casing. Someone had shot a bullet and this bit of brass landed here. On the doorstep of my church. Where we worship the Prince of Peace. Where we learn that those who make peace are blessed. I put my foot on it -- didn't want the boy to see it. I stuck it in my … [Read more...]

How Do You Know That? (Heidelberg Catechism Q. 19)

The Chemistry Of Inversion, Raymond Bryson, CC license

You and I were born in an age shaped by scientific thinking. We find it hard to accept that there might be ways of knowing other than through science — the proof of hypotheses through experimentation. It is a sort of cultural mythos, this devotion to science. It is a religion without a temple. We spread it like Spackle over ways of knowing that are really not about science at … [Read more...]

Finding a Life-Giving Approach to the Bible (part 7, conclusion): Process & Goal

Paris Art Deco, by Sandra Cohen-Rose, under cc license

And so we come to the end of the classic book on lectio divina by Guigo II (d. 1188), The Ladder of Monks. The idea of a ladder is key to understanding his approach to the Bible -- despite all the food metaphors I've noted in these posts. He might have done better still with a spiral staircase, but The Spiral Staircase of Monks is not nearly so catchy. And he didn't ask … [Read more...]

Augustinian Soul Music!

Sam Rocha, Late to Love, on Wiseblood Records

Funny things happen in the world of the internet. August 28th was the feast day of St. Augustine, so I sent out last year's post on the influential theologian via Facebook and Twitter. For whatever reason it got far more attention than when I first posted it. Recycling can be fun. The best thing, though, was that Sam Rocha, whom I've never met, tweeted me back. Rocha is … [Read more...]

Finding a Life-Giving Approach to the Bible (part 6): Contemplate Upon It

Roof Ladder (Porvoo, Finland) by Miguel Virkkunen Carvalho (cc license)

Contemplation is when the mind is in some sort lifted up to God and held above itself, so that it tastes the joys of everlasting sweetness." That is Guigo II (d. 1188) talking about the fourth and final step of lectio divina, the spiritual reading of Scripture. In his classic little book he compares the process to a ladder, and this is the top rung. When I was a … [Read more...]

Why Reformed Theology? (via Heidelberg Catechism Q. 18)

Christ Pantocrator (photo by Waiting for the Word, cc license)

I find Christian faith coherent, intellectually rigorous, and deeply soul-satisfying. Why? Probably because I have been fed a hearty diet of Reformed Theology. I did my doctoral dissertation on John Calvin, the Reformed theologian who shaped the tradition more than any other. For a good long while I've regularly taught the theological summaries that make up the … [Read more...]