To Bible Naysayers: The Gospels are as historically accurate as the history of Herodotus

For some, Christmas is the time of year for observing holiday traditions. For others, it’s a time to reflect on the birth of Jesus Christ. For many, it’s a time to do both. 

Doing both is difficult. The meaning of Christmas competes for our attention with the Western tradition of the tree, the presents, the shopping, the meal, plus the complication of Covid and getting together with extended family.

Here is something to bring you back. 

The accounts of Jesus’ birth, life, death, and resurrection recorded in the Gospels are as historically reliable as the history of Herodotus, and the history of Thucydides, and many other ancient texts. If you believe that Aristotle walked the earth and put ink to papyrus to write Poetics, then you are compelled to believe that Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John walked the earth and put ink to papyrus to record the events surrounding the life of Jesus Christ. All these documents meet the bibliographical test for reliability, based on the standards of historical scholarship.

In Search of Inner Peace

Penny and I have been participating in a longitudinal study on stress and asthma since she was in utero, and we’ve been sending samples of Penny’s hair and nails ever since. Today we did her year-seven samples, and she got paid $60 for sending in a lock of her hair and ten fingernails. Nick, of course, asked, “Can send in my hair and get $60?” Fortunately, Penny was feeling generous and bought her brother Fortnite virtual goodies. There is a lot of goodwill between them right now, which makes me very happy.

Have you ever come across someone in your life who is so confident and so at peace that you thought, hey, I want what some of that? That’s how I felt the other day when my aunt invited me over for dinner. It’s funny because I’ve known my aunt all my life. She is not a fancy person, she is not rich, and things have not always gone her way. And yet, as she talked and touched upon some of the features of her life, I notice so much peace and confidence in her, and not an ounce of bitterness or regret over mistakes or missed opportunities. It’s funny to me, because I’ve known my aunt all my life, but only now notice this. I suppose I needed to get old enough to see that peace is not situation-dependent, and you can be comfortable in your skin no matter how much money or success or accomplishments you’ve enjoyed in your life.

When I asked my aunt about this, she told me that we must allow God to fill all the empty space in our soul to feel completely at peace. How wonderfully concrete! Our soul, an open room with large windows, sunlight beaming in, touching every corner and surface in the space. I had always thought that Christian faith was somewhat underwhelming unless it was put to use to make an impact somewhere. Perhaps this is a product of all the salvation talk at Church, that sometimes feels like it’s driven by the need to reach a quota, but I also think this idea is rooted in my immature notion that more is better. If the only place you manage to “make a difference” is with your own family, then this isn’t impressive. I’m starting to think, though, that spiritual growth, just for the sake of it, is a good thing. You’ll live better; you’ll be a pleasure to have around, you’ll have peace no matter where life takes you.

So, instead of filling our souls with material things, maybe all we need to do is draw the blinds. And Tia, if you’re reading this, you are truly inspirational!

Coronavirus Day 36- Kids and Church

Virtual church, ya’ll. Photo credit: Steve

God has no grandchildren.

Getting Your Kids Through Church Without Them Ending Up Hating God,
Rob Parsons

BLUF: Kids come have to come to faith on their own. Parents guide them, but must get out of the way.

We’ve decided to divide and conquer today. Steve and the kids are upstairs about to start Sonic the Hedgehog. I’m downstairs about to load the dishwasher and sweep the pet fur and do other cool and interesting things like that. This is all fine with me, by the way. By sheer volume of hours, I spend a lot more time with the kids than Steve does. I even have time to goof off with them during the week. So I’ll let them enjoy their movie. I’m glad I’m not staring down a work week.

It turns out that virtual church has been just as hard to gain momentum around as normal church had been. Just before Coronavirus, the last time we attempted church we had arrived so late, that the kids refused to go into the kids’ worship service. Steve and I brought them into the sanctuary where they squirmed and made noise and we ended up leaving early. Of note, my kids are not little! They are capable of sitting still for entire school days. What I’m dealing with is some kind of philosophical church parenting problem.

In the book quoted above (an on-the-nose title, I know), the author’s main point is to stress the role of parents in developing their kids’ faith—specifically the limits of parents’ influence. He emphasizes that parents cannot bear full responsibility for their kids’ spiritual journey. Kids have to come to faith for themselves. There are a lot of ways to model and help kids along (he makes a big point of the value of youth groups) but forcing Christianity could do more harm than good. I 100% believe this.

So where does this leave me? Today, I invited them. I appealed to their desire to make me happy (“Please just come sit with me while I watch,”). It worked last weekend (Easter!), not so much today. I guess I just keep trying. Maybe I get creative and bring in donuts and park them in front of the TV. I guess this works for normal churches. There is something to persistence and perseverance and continuing to try. Maybe this is the point the author is really trying to make.

Coronavirus Day 31- Don’t Be Anxious For Tomorrow

It was a really nice day today. Frozen blueberries stain everything.

It’s dinner time, and I have one of those giant Costco lasagnas in the oven. Guess what we’ll be eating for the next four days? I woke up really early this morning again to try and get a handle of my projects and things. Between virtual school, meals, sibling fighting and house chores I don’t have much time to sit in front of the computer or run or whatever. So I squeeze it all in in the morning, because I’m a nicer person if I get it all done in peace and quiet. So I was nice today.

I am going to get Bible-y now. There’s that verse in which Jesus says something along the lines of ‘don’t be anxious for tomorrow…yada yada.’ I’m paraphrasing, but that’s the gist. It’s controversial because I think people always understand this to mean, don’t plan, don’t care, don’t worry; be a bum on the street because, who cares? You’ll have treasures in heaven like eternal life!

Anyway there’s a lot of worrying going on around the world about jobs. But it occurred to me this morning that this Christian call to not worry, in particular about job stuff, applies to me as well even though I’m not the bread winner. My worrying, it turns out, takes the form of frustration for not having answers to things like, are we moving in the fall? Can I pay off this car loan right now? Because I would really like to do these things, you know, cross things off the list. Maybe if I settle into the mystery and uncertainty of things, as it relates to my personal to-do list, that will be me practicing my faith to not worry.

Coronavirus Day 26- Ordinary Time

Brownies from scratch

I’m sitting at breakfast with Nick and Penny. Each of us is looking at a screen. I’m sipping on a black cup of coffee. There was a time when I would have thought this was a pathetic scene as in, “Look at us, so addicted to media and disconnected from one another that we can’t even watch the same show.” Today, I’m not so critical. I think this is a product of my recent mobilization, where I spent nearly four months in Guatemala with two guys doing civil affairs work. We spent hours upon hours together in a van, eating meals, sitting in front of our computers, surfing the web on our phones. Even though we weren’t always talking or entertaining one another, we were still together. The hours, days, and months still counted. As such, my morning with Nick and Penny still counts, screens and all.

I’m reading this book, The Liturgy of the Ordinary, which is in essence a manifesto in praise of ordinary life. This book has introduced me to the Liturgical Calendar, which has introduced me to the concept of Ordinary Time. In addition to the big seasons that I was already familiar with (i.e. Lent, Advent), Ordinary Time is new to me, and it takes up most of the year. Ordinary Time represents months of white space and nothingness.

When I first returned home from my mobilization I was at teenage-level angst and turmoil over the boredom of regular life. I realize now that my coming home involved a downshift in my mind back to a place of quiet, ordinary activity. Ordinary Time. It’s natural to mourn the loss of the exciting, constant changes and stimuli of a mobilization. Especially now with social isolation in effect, the whole world is mourning the loss of having places to go and people to see. But a secure person knows that life ebbs and flows between the exciting and the ordinary. I think the most successful, contented, and satisfied people are good at doing both, the exciting and the boring.

Trash bag swimming pool