From the Dean

The Dean Recommends: What is the historical evidence that Jesus Christ lived and died?

Published on April 27, 2017
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How confident can we be that Jesus Christ actually lived?
The historical evidence for Jesus of Nazareth is both long-established and widespread. Within a few decades of his supposed lifetime, he is mentioned by Jewish and Roman historians, as well as by dozens of Christian writings. Compare that with, for example, King Arthur, who supposedly lived around AD500. The major historical source for events of that time does not even mention Arthur, and he is first referred to 300 or 400 years after he is supposed to have lived. The evidence for Jesus is not limited to later folklore, as are accounts of Arthur.

What do Christian writings tell us?
The value of this evidence is that it is both early and detailed. The first Christian writings to talk about Jesus are the epistles of St Paul, and scholars agree that the earliest of these letters were written within 25 years of Jesus’s death at the very latest, while the detailed biographical accounts of Jesus in the New Testament gospels date from around 40 years after he died. These all appeared within the lifetimes of numerous eyewitnesses, and provide descriptions that comport with the culture and geography of first-century Palestine. It is also difficult to imagine why Christian writers would invent such a thoroughly Jewish saviour figure in a time and place – under the aegis of the Roman empire – where there was strong suspicion of Judaism. Read the rest by Simon Gathercole at The Guardian

Originally published on April 14, 2017.

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The Dean Recommends: Is the "Right to Choose" Absolute?

Published on April 26, 2017

Imagine you are driving on a foggy night and you see a dark figure ahead. It could be a fallen branch. It might even be a little deer, or, God forbid, a little child. Do you keep on driving full speed and crash through it, or put on the brakes? If you think it might be a human person, either dead or alive, what should you do?

Most of us would say that even if we are uncertain, we should stop and check. We should give the benefit of the doubt to something that might be human, and, if it is, treat it with care.

But a recent article for Gatestone suggests that society has no obligation to interfere with a woman who chooses to get an abortion. The article concedes that the question of when life begins is complex, and suggests that after the first trimester the question becomes more difficult. But it fails to distinguish between early and late abortions. Read the rest by Beeson's Anglican Chair of Divinity Gerald R. McDermott at Gatestone Institute.

Originally published on April 20, 2017.

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The Dean Recommends: Welcoming Bach Among the Theologians

Published on April 25, 2017
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The great Yale professor of church history, Jaroslav Pelikan (1923-2006), known for his massive The Christian TraditionA History of the Development of Doctrine and his editorship of the English translation of the works of Martin Luther, also wrote a small volume studying the relationship between the works of Johann Sebastian Bach and biblical doctrine.

Bach Among the Theologians appeared first in 1946 and represents Pelikan’s devoted foray into the world of Bach scholarship. His work truly is a labor of love for both Bach and Bach’s Lutheran heritage.

Patrick Kavanaugh, is his memorable Spiritual Lives of the Great Composers, explains Bach’s connection to Luther:

Bach spent his entire life in Germany, working primarily as a church musician. For the two centuries prior, this region had been permeated by the legacy of Martin Luther, with his radical emphasis on a living, personal, BIble-based Christianity. Luther himself had been a musician, declaring music to be second only to the Gospel itself. Bach was to be the reformer’s greatest musical disciple.

In Pelikan’s Bach Among the Theologians, he explains that Bach operated under the conviction that “the highest activity of the human spirit was the praise of God, but that such praise involved the total activity of the spirit.” Read the rest by Jason G. Duesing at JGDuesing.com

Originally published on April 20, 2017.

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The Dean Recommends: Who pastors the pastor? Even ministers suffer from suicidal thoughts

Published on April 24, 2017

My cousin’s trembling voice uttered the unthinkable. “Kay, I need to let you know that Wayne took his life this morning.” My knees collapsed under me. “No! How can this be? What happened? Why? What was wrong with him?”

My mouth formed tumbling questions despite my mind being frozen in disbelief and grief.

Through his tears, my cousin told me his brother-in-law had struggled with depression and suicidal thoughts for some time. His family thought Wayne was truly improving after he agreed to see a therapist.

On the morning of his death, Wayne said goodbye to his wife, Lynn, as she left for work. But Lynn felt uneasy and came home at lunch to check on him, only to find the worst had happened. Read the rest by Kay Warren at The Washington Post.

Originally published on April 21, 2017.

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