On Finding Real Wisdom

“Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?” This question is found in the Bible in 1 Corinthians 1:20. The Apostle Paul had just written, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18, NIV). It does sound at first hearing a bit foolish: to think that anything good could come from a man being tortured to death in such a gruesome fashion really doesn’t seem wise. Crucifixion in the Roman Empire was reserved for slaves and political enemies as the ultimate humiliation.

For Christians, however, the theology behind that story changes everything. We believe that the Creator Himself was at work in the event, taking himself the rightful place of human punishment, paying a moral and spiritual debt that human beings could never pay. If Jesus was the naïve victim of political intrigue, his story is one of pathos. If Jesus was the willing victim of a cosmic plan that would make it possible to set things right between human beings and their Creator, that is something else! God’s wisdom and human wisdom: there can seem quite a contrast.

The wisdom of the world alleges that self-preservation is of first importance, and yet, there is Jesus dying innocently, and as Christians believe, sacrificing himself so that others might have a shot at eternal life.

The wisdom of the world argues that concern for one’s own tribe is enough. Such tribalism was enough for the Nazis to justify the Holocaust. It fuels the ongoing strife in the Middle East and beyond. It divides Americans by ethnic background. And then there is Jesus, saying that God loves the entire world and sent his Son so that people from “every nation, tribe, people, and language” might stand side-by-side with one heart and voice, united in love and in the worship of God (see Revelation 7:9f.).

The wisdom of the world assumes that challenging the cultural norms of other societies is disrespectful or at least unnecessary: “live and let live,” after all. And yet, there is Jesus, challenging those within his own ancient Jewish culture to allow God to adjust their values and norms to those of heaven, and then extending that challenge to every other human society.

All temporary human values seem to be turned upside down by the Christian gospel—or as Christians would argue, are turned right-side up. The gospel urges Jesus’ followers to “take up the cross” for the sake of God’s purposes and for others, which is surely contrary to a fierce spirit of self-preservation. The gospel urges people to remember that “God … loved the world” when He sent His Son (cf. John 3:16), and that all of us must learn to show His kind of love to all the people groups of the world through the message of salvation and through other positive acts of caring. In the gospel, all people have the same original value as those who uniquely bear the image of God, and they all now need what only Jesus can offer: the power to restore that image in the human soul. The gospel challenges all cultural norms that are contrary to the grace and truth found in Jesus Christ, often raising obscure values to primacy and toppling idols that contradict God’s highest revelation of Himself in Christ.

So, the Apostle Paul could really have been onto something. God has made foolish the wisdom of the world, because it has often been the wisdom of fools to begin with. Opting to live on a foundation of eternal values, even when it costs us something in this temporary world, is true wisdom. As Paul argued and Christians believe, “God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe” (1 Corinthians 1:21, NIV).

Smiley Mudd

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“Fools for Christ”: Christian faith seems … weirder now.

Christians have always had the audacity to believe in Jesus, even when others sneer at such faith. Luke records how Governor Portius Festus explained to the Roman King Agrippa why he still had Paul in custody. He couldn’t really come up with a good reason for Paul to be in a Roman jail, because the Jewish leaders accused him of no real violation of Roman law. “Instead, they had some points of dispute with him about their own religion and about a dead man named Jesus who Paul claimed was alive” (Acts 25:19 NIV84).

There it is: “… a dead man named Jesus who Paul claimed was alive.” That is what this Roman ruler thought of the controversy over the Apostle Paul. In other words, the Christian faith seemed … weird.

To give Paul a little credit, it seemed weird to him at first, too. In point of historical fact, he thought it was not only weird but positively blasphemous. These followers of “a dead man named Jesus” thought that that crazy Nazarene was the Christ, the Messiah—and that He was no longer dead at all, but had been raised to life again by God! We are told in the book of Acts that Paul was so agitated about this that he just kept on “breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples,” and “went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem” (Acts 9:1-2, NIV84).

Paul was on his way to do that very thing when he encountered the resurrected Jesus and was dramatically converted from persecutor to preacher of the Way. He knew what that meant: now he would be considered even weirder. And sure enough, he was right.

So now in the front quarter of the 21st century, jihadi terrorists are launching deadly attacks all over the glode, the president of North Korea is threatening the world, and the Supreme Court of the United States has given legal support to a revisionist view of marriage that supports the legal union of same-sex couples. Add to this, the religious tenor of the country is less than wonderful, as Ross Douthat argues in a provocative book I am reading called Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics.

So how does “the faith entrusted once for all to the saints” (Jude 3) appear these days? Weird. How does a faith that argues that their Founder is “the way and the truth and the life,” and that “no one comes to the [one true God and] Father, except through [Him]” (see John 14:6)? Weird. How does a faith that affirms the creation of all human beings as “male and female” that are designed to unite in marriage to reproduce and nurture their offspring for the good of God’s world look in this generation? Weird. “We are fools for Christ,” says Paul (1 Corinthians 4:10), but Peter was right: Jesus has “the words of eternal life” (John 6:68). And so, I’m good with weird. How about you? See you in church, my fellow “fools.”

Smiley Mudd

Love God; love the people: the heart of it all.

I have been thinking lately about one of the letters to the seven churches in the book of Revelation. I wasn’t thinking prophetically but rather practically. These letters are given in chapters two and three. The very first letter was addressed “to the “angel of the church in Ephesus” (“angel”  probably should be taken in its root meaning of “messenger”). In it, Jesus commends the church for its good “works,” its “patient endurance” (ESV) and its proper intolerance for those who practiced evil, either in false teaching or immoral living. They had “not grown weary.”

If it were a contemporary church, the church in Ephesus would be a leading light in evangelicalism: doctrinally right, wary of false teachers, working hard, well-organized, and standing against cultural accommodation. But they had one little problem. Jesus threatened to “remove [their] lampstand from its place” (2:5, ESV), because they had “abandoned the love [they] had at first” (2:4, ESV). That would mean ceasing to exist as a church.

Apparently, they had decided, as that word translated “abandoned” suggests, that love was not going to be a central part of their Values Statement as a church. They were preaching the gospel of Jesus, standing against cultural compromise, calling out false teachers, and working hard. That was enough for them—but it wasn’t enough for Jesus.

As March rolls around, I also start thinking about the story of Patrick of Ireland. His day comes on March 17 each year. There is a bit of legend that has grown up around Patrick, but what we can actually know about him comes through a document that he purportedly wrote later in his life to defend his ministry in Ireland and to appeal to church leaders to keep him there.

Remember his story? He was an English youth of 16 when he was captured by Irish Pirates and hauled away to Ireland. He was sold to a local “king” and set to work tending his herds. He often spent months alone wandering around in the hills following those animals. But something happened during his exile. God restored his (formerly nominal) Christian faith, and Patrick became impassioned about the life of prayer. After 6 years, following a vision, he set out to escape and met a ship 200 miles away sailing for England. He made his way back home, and he became a pastor and then a bishop. Some 30-40 years later, he had another vision which compelled him to return to Ireland, the land of his captivity, now as a missionary. He obeyed that calling, and the rest, as they say, is the stuff of history—and legend.

What brings these two themes together is this: if we are nurturing a “first love” Christian life, then the powerful motive force for our lives will be the same as that of Patrick: he loved our common Lord Jesus Christ, and he loved the people.

As I see it, that sums up our calling, also. Love God; love the people. Every truly Christian action ties into these.

Smiley Mudd

Jesus’ Sayings from the Cross, #1: The Unexpected Word of Forgiveness

A few years ago, a television miniseries recounted the tale of the most notorious feud in American history. It was called Hatfields and McCoys. A Life magazine cover story in 1944 recounted the story with large photos (accessed at http://userwww.service.emory.edu/~dmcco01/McCoy/LIFE/.

Here is how it allegedly began: “The Hatfields were, and still are, mountain farmers on the West Virginia side of Tug Fork of the Big Sandy River …. The McCoys were large landowners on the Kentucky side of the same stream. During the Civil War young Anderson (‘Devil Anse’) Hatfield, fighting with the Confederates, killed Harmon McCoy, a Union man, in battle. He came home a Confederate captain and quarreled again with Randall McCoy, Harmon’s kin, over a stolen pig.”

Open war broke out after Devil Anse’s oldest son, Jonse, fell in love with and moved in with Randall McCoy’s daughter Rosanna. The McCoys caught Ellison Hatfield, Anse’s brother and stabbed him fatally. Anse retaliated by tying three young McCoys to bushes beside the river and murdering them. Anse “and his clan rode boldly up to Randall McCoy’s house in Kentucky, killed his 15-year-old daughter Allifair McCoy, and burned the house down. There were ambushes in the woods in which many men were killed, but Devil Anse lived safely behind a drawbridge in his mountain valley home. Only one feudist (‘Cotton Top’ Mounts, a Hatfield cousin) was ever hanged. The last killing was in 1896, but by that time Devil Anse had been converted, baptized and was living respectably on money from his coal lands ….”

This story is as old as the spirit of revenge that lurks in every human heart. Someone speaks ill of me, and I want to point up their (obvious) faults to others. My neighbor encroaches onto my property with his tree trimmings, and I am tempted to “bump” his fence with my tractor. Behold the bumper-sticker philosophy: “I DON’T GET MAD; I GET EVEN.”

In sharp contrast is what may be the most unexpected statement in all of history. In a dramatic turn of extreme injustice, the religious leaders of Jesus’ time and place seized him by stealth and turned him over to the Roman government for death by crucifixion, a most diabolical form of execution. While under that extreme torture, those standing by reported for posterity what he said. There were seven “sayings” uttered by Jesus on that fateful day. Followers of Jesus have pondered them over and over through the centuries since.

The first of those sayings goes against most of human history: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). We might ask, “How can an innocent victim of power-hungry jealousy and of government cruelty and indifference ask God to “forgive them”? At the very least because they needed forgiveness. They could not make up for such cosmic injustice. Forgiveness was and is the only remedy for their guilt. Christians believe that Jesus’ death makes that forgiveness possible—and that every human being needs to and can be forgiven by God the Father as a result.

It seems interesting that the feud between the Hatfields and the McCoys ends with a central player confessing Christian faith. In more recent years, Nelson Mandela emerged from over two decades in prison in South Africa with a truly startling message. Instead of a message of rights or power, he spoke repeatedly about reconciliation—with the very people who had so systematically mistreated his people. He, too, was attempting to apply his Christian faith to the debasing history of apartheid in his country. This is greatly needed right now in modern America, as more and more people are seeking “tit for tat” over racial and other social offenses. A glance to the cross of Jesus and an open heart could make real reconciliation possible: “Forgive them, because they don’t really understand what they are doing.”

Smiley Mudd

Do we need another “Year of the Bible”? I say yes.

It is demoralizing how ignorant people are about the contents of the Bible nowadays. I wish that were only true about our culture at large, but I am afraid that it is also true about some church-going folks.

Several years ago now, a young family moved away from Ellensburg to another city in Washington State. They came back to visit our church a couple of months later. As might be expected of a pastor-type, I asked them how their search for a new church was going. “Well, not so good,” they replied. Then they recounted attending one particular church in their new city. They had decided not to keep attending within the first two Sundays, but they kept going with one goal in mind. They decided they would attend until someone stood before the congregation and read aloud from the Bible, not just quoting a line or two in a message. How long did it take? Six weeks. Yes, this self-avowed evangelical church went six Sundays until someone read a passage aloud from the Bible, either in the sermon or separately.

Even as I recall this conversation, my heart sinks a little. Evangelical churches often chide mainline churches for having abandoned particular teachings from the Bible. Yet, often those same mainline churches have regular Bible readings every Sunday, perhaps drawn from their collection of readings called a Lectionary. Yet, this particular “evangelical” church (quotation marks intended) did not even have a Bible reading in a service for six straight weeks. I truly hope they have changed their habit since that time. Alas.

Just this week, on the day I wrote this column, I read a Breakpoint Commentary from the Colson Center for Christian Worldview entitled “The Book of Acts Gets a CT Scan.” In it Eric Metaxas tells about an ancient manuscript in Coptic language (e.g. from Egypt) that has been dated to between AD 400-600. It is housed in the Morgan Library in New York City. It is a manuscript of the Book of Acts and some other yet-unidentified writing. The manuscript is so fragile from fire damage at some point that no one has dared to try to open it, lest it crumble into fragments. One journalist said it “looks as delicate as a long dead flower.”

But W. Brent Seales, a computer science professor at the University of Kentucky, has developed a way using a CT scanner and his own special software to “read” the pages of this book without ever opening them. It is an amazing process of discovery.

Now, Eric and I both ponder the obvious. If trying to read this ancient copy of the Book of Acts is such a labor-worthy effort, what is keeping us from taking in the teaching of Scripture regularly from all the translations available to us in print and on our computers and mobile devices? Seales said, his technique “can turn things thought to be of no value into precious objects.” As I see it, we already know the value of the Book of life. Let’s treat it as such!

Smiley Mudd

Epiphany, the End of a Long Search

C. S. Lewis, Josh McDowell, and Lee Strobel share something in common with some ancient characters in the story of the Bible. They all came to believe that they were led to Jesus. Lewis, McDowell, and Strobel all came to Jesus quite reluctantly. The ancient characters described in the Bible story made a great and unusual effort to find Him.

Lewis told his story of conversion to faith in Christ in a book entitled Surprised by Joy: the Shape of My Early Life. He had become a hard-boiled unbeliever and skeptic in his late twenties. His mother died when he was a child, and neither he, his brother nor their father handled it very well. He graduated with a “First” in two different fields of study from Oxford University. This means that he was the top of his class in these areas of study from one of the top universities in the world. He was getting a good start in his teaching assignment at Oxford, becoming more and more entrenched in his unbelief, when something upsetting and unusual happened.

Here is how Lewis described that moment of crisis: “Early in 1926 the hardest boiled of all the atheists I ever knew sat in my room on the other side of the fire and remarked that the evidence for the historicity of the Gospels was really surprisingly good. ‘Rum thing,’ he went on. ‘All that stuff of Frazer’s about the Dying God. Rum thing. It almost looks as if it had really happened once.’ To understand the shattering impact of it, you would need to know the man (who has certainly never since shown any interest in Christianity). If he, the cynic of cynics, the toughest of the toughs, were not—as I would still have put it—‘safe,’ where could I turn? Was there no escape?”

He reports in Surprised by Joy that there was no escape. Once he explored the evidence for himself, his atheism began to wilt and ultimately it crumbled to the ground. A new perspective had taken root and was going to grow into a large tree of faith. Or, in a timelier way of putting this, a flicker of light had penetrated the darkness and had begun to burn more and more brightly.

It was just such a light that some ancient men discovered in the sky, which in some amazing manner led them right to the child Jesus and his mother and step-father. The Gospel of Matthew (chapter 2) tells about this caste of stargazers the Greeks called magoi that somehow inferred from astronomical observations that a new “king of the Jews” would be born. They traveled a very long way, created quite a stir upon their arrival in Jerusalem, and finally found the place where Jesus lived. When they saw the child, they bowed before him in worship and presented him gifts fit for a king: gold, incense, and myrrh. That is what Christians celebrate on January 6 each year, what is called “Epiphany,” meaning “a revelation.”

People like Lewis, Strobel and McDowell argue that just such a revelation could be waiting for us. Of course, we could try to play it safe, too. But if this story is true, there is nothing in the world with which to compare it. As Blaise Pascal wrote, “Let them at least be honest men, if they cannot be Christians. Finally, let them recognize that there are two kinds of people one can call reasonable; those who serve God with all their heart because they know Him, and those who seek Him with all their heart because they do not know Him (Pensees, #194). Perhaps a personal Epiphany awaits.

Smiley Mudd

Living in a Post-Christmas World

Every year in late December, as I drive about town, I inevitably see what for me is a symbol of the season: a deflated Santa Claus on someone’s front yard. Now really, I am not completely offended by the Jolly Old Man. He represents a tradition that stretches all the way back to a great Christian in the late 3rd and early 4th century, Nicholas of Myra, Turkey—St. Nicholas in popular parlance. Nicholas was a famous Christian about whom a variety of legends have grown. One of the main ones is that he gave away his inherited wealth and went about the countryside helping the poor and sick. Even the Fat Man in the Red Suit is still a flicker of that ancient Christian story, and so I don’t hold any grudge against him.

However, his is now a story of much form and little substance. He is an inflated invention of modern times. He is full of cheer and bears gifts for the “nice” people, but the worst he can do is to put a lump of coal in the stocking of the “naughty.” Even in this there is a semblance of justice, but rather of a weak and toothless kind. The trouble with inflated things is that they won’t hold air forever.

As I write this column, my family is watching the classic Christmas movie, A Christmas Carol. It is the 1984 edition in which George C. Scott plays Ebenezer Scrooge. That Charles Dickens’ story is a tale with more grit and with much more at stake. The possible outcomes of life truly are stark, and they could not be more opposite to each other. And there is indeed opportunity in this life to change the path—and the destiny—of our journey. The Scripture being read in the Cratchit household makes the point of the story subtly but clearly: “unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 18:3, ESV). Mr. Scrooge truly does “turn” as he humbles himself before heaven and becomes like a little child in his repentance, begging for mercy and a chance to change his ways. Bob Cratchit’s quote from Tiny Tim suggests the gospel in the story, albeit again hinted but not proclaimed (I paraphrase): “I hope the people see me at church, and they remember the one who made the lame walk and the dumb speak.”

It is now nine days after Christmas. We are living in a post-Christmas world, but not just this week—rather, for the past two millenia. “And the Word became flesh and pitched a tent among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of an only-born from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 14:6). As I see it, nothing now remains the same. Our very physical world is now hallowed, if not haunted, because of the Incarnation. God holds insider information about the human lives that He created in His image. The Son of God “in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15, ESV). That writer gets the point: “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16-5:1 ESV). Let us, indeed! And shucks, “God bless us, every one!”

Smiley Mudd

 

Myth has become fact in the coming of Jesus.

One of the most interesting and often discussed friendships of the 20th century was the bond between J. R. R. Tolkien, the author of The Lord of the Rings cycle, and C. S. Lewis, the writer behind The Chronicles of Narnia and of many books defending and explaining the Christian faith—notably titles like The Screwtape Letters and Mere Christianity. Both of these Oxford professors wrote books in their respective fields of Medieval and Renaissance Literature (Lewis) and of Philology (the study of language and languages, Tolkien).

Lewis credited a particular walk with Tolkien down a lane in Oxford, England, as a turning point in his quest for spiritual truth. Tolkien was a most unlikely candidate for friendship with Lewis, since Lewis had a predisposition against both Papists (Roman Catholics) and Philologists (the study of language). Tolkien was both. But as they walked along, they were discussing Lewis’s respect and admiration for the great myths of the Norse Gods. They agreed that such stories had power to shape the imagination and also the life. But what, suggested Tolkien, if one of these great stories, the myth of the Dying God, might actually have happened in human history, that the story told in the gospels of Jesus of Nazareth was myth become fact? The power of the story would be even greater because now it was not rooted only in the imagination, but now anchored in the flow of human history.

Lewis related in Surprised by Joy: the Shape of My Early Life a stunning event that took place one day in his early years as a lecturer in Philosophy and English at Oxford: “Early in 1926 the hardest boiled of all the atheists I ever knew sat in my room on the other side of the fire and remarked that the evidence for the historicity of the Gospels was really surprisingly good. ‘Rum thing,’ he went on. ‘All that stuff of Frazer’s about the Dying God. Rum thing. It almost looks as if it had really happened once’” (p. 216). Lewis reports that this was a devastating blow to his contrived unbelief. Myth become fact, indeed!

This is exactly what Christians claim happened in the dividing line between the centuries, what separates the Common Era from Before the Common Era: it is the coming of Jesus Christ. Those of us who still prefer the more Christian designations of B.C. (Before Christ) and A. D. (Anno Domini, in the year of the Lord), are more conscious and less in denial about what really happened to the world when Jesus was born. The great stories of other cultures, perhaps understood as echoes sounding out from the great voice that had spoken through that most unlikely megaphone, the manger in Bethlehem, were now finding their historical expression. The God Who had created all else outside of Himself had humbled Himself to such an extent that he not only shared the human nature of those made in His image, but He then went on to “taste death for everyone” (Hebrews 2:9) and conquer death once and for all in His resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1ff). Of such is our celebration of Christmas. Merry Christmas, indeed!

Smiley Mudd

 

Don’t fumble the baton or the race could be lost.

A Pastor named Bryan Wilkerson tells: “In the 2004 Summer Olympic Games in Athens, Greece, the American women’s 4×100 relay [team] was favored to win the gold medal. The team featured Marion Jones, a sprinter who had won four gold medals at the previous games in Sydney. The American team was already off to a strong start when Jones took the baton for the second leg of the race. She gained ground as she ran her 100 meters and approached Lauryn Williams, a young speedster who would run the third leg.

“Williams began running as Jones drew near, but when she reached back to receive the baton, they couldn’t complete the handoff. Once, twice, three times Jones thrust the baton forward, but each time it missed Williams’ hand—she couldn’t seem to wrap her fingers around it. Finally, on the fourth try, they made the connection. But by that time, they had crossed out of the 20-yard exchange zone and were disqualified. Everyone knew they were the fastest team on the track. The night before, they’d had the fastest qualifying time. But when they couldn’t complete the handoff, their race was over.”

As I see it, this is a parable for living with what I have called from time to time a Generational Vision. In short, we must appreciate what has been handed to us from  those who have gone before us, and we must faithfully pass that on to those who follow us—a Generational Vision. The point? Don’t drop the baton in the transfer from generation to generation. As Paul wrote to Timothy, “What you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2Timothy 2:2 ESV).

We have just finished a month of appreciation for what we have inherited from the Reformers of the 16th century in the 500th anniversary of Luther’s 95 Theses. These imperfect but faithful disciples called us back to the Scriptures and to salvation by God’s grace through our faith. They rediscovered the “priesthood” of all believers. Our present task is to take the good things we have inherited, filter them through our own thorough reading of Scripture in the fellowship of God’s people, and then make that our legacy for those who follow us. Don’t drop the baton in the transfer from generation to generation.

Of course, this has application to our family relationships as well as to our relationships at church. Our children should see a credible witness in their Christian parents of the faith, hope, and love embedded in the Gospel. All of the children in the Church should see the same from all the adults that confess faith in Jesus, whether parents or singles. The race of faith is like a relay, not a solo sprint or even a marathon. We will of necessity receive the Truth in Christ from those who have gone before us, and unless Jesus comes again in this generation, we will surely be required to pass it on to those who follow. Let’s do it well!

Smiley Mudd

What Baptist-Christians Owe to the Reformation

October 31, 2017, is the 500th anniversary of a rather world-altering event. On that date in 1517, Martin Luther posted on the chapel door of the University of Wittenberg, Germany, a list of discussion points he hoped to engage with other scholars at the university. It was the 95 Theses. In those 95 challenging bullet points, he questioned the common practice of selling indulgences (basically “get out of Purgatory free” cards) and the absolute power of the Pope to interpret the meaning of the Church and the Christian life—among many other things.

It appears that Martin had been reading his Bible, in the just-published edition of the Greek New Testament (1516) from a thoughtful Christian scholar named Desiderius Erasmus. The Renaissance (literally, re-birth) was moving right along with its emphasis on the recovery of time-tested paths. Erasmus had this funny and seemingly outmoded idea that the Christian Church should study and recover the original faith of the followers of Jesus. They needed the Bible, and not just a translation that no one could read, in order to do that. As Martin read and reread this original text of the New Testament, he was struck at how different it seemed from what he had been taught as a good Roman Catholic Christian. He had labored within the current teaching of the Church, trying to balance the books between his self-perceived sins and the penance he was tasked to do. He could never feel fully pardoned, no matter what he did (and he did a lot).

Then along came the book of Romans. “The just shall live by faith” it repeated from the book of Habakkuk. “What? I am not pronounced righteous by my deeds, but rather by my faith!?” This was earth-shaking (good) news for Martin. He wanted to hash out the implications of this with his fellow teachers. But someone came along, read the 95 Theses, snatched it up and took it to that new-fangled instrument for bibliophiles called the Printing Press, and the Reformation had begun.

Baptist-Christians came along later in the surge of what has been called the Third Wave of the Reformation. We are heirs of this rediscovery of salvation by faith alone on the basis of God’s grace alone founded on the teaching of the Scriptures alone (sola fide, sola gratia, sola Scriptura). Every self-respecting Baptist-Christian says “Amen!” (perhaps rather loudly) to these emphases when they are taught from the pulpit. As I see it, we do well to celebrate this heritage. After all, Martin didn’t set out to create a Lutheran Church, but to reform the Church of Jesus Christ our Lord so that it would be a more faithful Church. That is the heart-cry of Baptist-Christians, as well. We should know from reading our Bibles, too, that “Baptist” and “Lutheran” are merely adjectives. The real Noun is Church. And Jesus said, “I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it” (Matthew 16:18, NIV).

Smiley Mudd