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Christian Ethics

Lesson 1: The Moral Crisis

Lesson 1: The Moral Crisis

Why is Michael Sandel’s introduction to ethics the most popular class at Harvard? What led “China Newsweek” to name Sandel the most influential foreign figure of the year 2011? How come my classes report using Sandel’s book has provoked some of our most exciting discussions? I suspect the answer has something to do with the […]

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Lesson 2: What are Ethics?

Lesson 2: What are Ethics?

When I began my face-to-face classes by asking how many ethical decisions they had made that day, I received a variety of answers. Some felt these were confined to big questions that demanded carefully considering the proprieties and priorities of the options before taking action. Others believed just about all their acts involved some form […]

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Lesson 3: Utilitarianism

Lesson 3: Utilitarianism

Sandel first takes a look at utilitarianism, the way our modern society usually does ethics. (See Chapter 2 of his book.) In the past we determined right and wrong by using laws or principles to evaluate an action. You did not kill, because there was a law that prohibited it. Today, utilitarians decide by measuirng […]

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Apostle\'s Creed

Lesson 1: What is a Creed?

Lesson 1: What is a Creed?

Before we examine the Apostles’ Creed, we had better remember the roles creeds play in the Church. Obviously, the first is to state what an individual believes. “Credo” is “I believe.” That is not to claim the creed summarizes a person’s faith. It addresses items that have been controversial. Many essential items, such as Jesus’ […]

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Lesson 2: The Almighty is Father

Lesson 2: The Almighty is Father

To confess “I believe in God the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth” is to take a significant position in the modern world. One way to highlight this is to consider the implications in light of Pope Francis’ “Laudato Si.” The first thing that jumps out is Almighty God is described as Father. Modern […]

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Lesson 3: Creator of Heaven and Earth

Lesson 3: Creator of Heaven and Earth

The second observation we should make is that the creed speaks of the creation of heaven and earth. These few words make some significant points. First, God creates place. Perhaps the central point of Francis’ encyclical is that the earth is our common home. The pope emphasizes this reality is more important than any idea. […]

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Luther\'s Small Catechism

Lesson 1: The First Commandment in Luther’s Small Catechism

Lesson 1: The First Commandment in Luther’s Small Catechism

Being that this is the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s posting the 95 Theses Against Indulgences, I plan to offer two series on the reformer this fall. The second will expand on a lecture I am giving at La Roche College on November 1, 2017. It suggests that the Lutheran and Roman Catholic narratives these […]

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Lesson 2: The Ten Commandments in Luther’s Small Catechism

Lesson 2: The Ten Commandments in Luther’s Small Catechism

I do not intend to examine every part of the catechism. You can do that yourself here. Instead, I shall highlight some of the more important parts of Luther’s explanations, especially emphasizing some of his distinctive insights. He numbered the commandments just as he was taught in the Catholic Church. The first three included those […]

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Lesson 3: The First Article of the Apostles’ Creed in Martin Luther’s Small Catechism

Lesson 3: The First Article of the Apostles’ Creed in Martin Luther’s Small Catechism

Luther’s explanation of the Creed’s first article is another classic. He uses everyday language to interpret creation as God’s ongoing action to provide for all our needs, protect us from all dangers, and preserve us through all changes. This is far from the deism most of our contemporaries associate with creation in which God sets […]

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Revelation

Lesson 1: An Introduction to Revelation

Lesson 1: An Introduction to Revelation

I decided to write a short series on Revelation after a number of onliners indicated that they were not aware that the book charted the fall of the Roman Empire. Once you begin reading it this way, it offers another perspective on the relation of church and state. Most of us think Paul’s instruction in […]

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Lesson 2: The Seven Churches of Revelation (Chapters 2 and 3)

Lesson 2: The Seven Churches of Revelation (Chapters 2 and 3)

Any decent understanding of Paul’s letters begins with an appreciation that they were written to particular congregations in a specific historical period. They were preserved in scripture, because the apostle handled their problems in a manner that remains relevant for us. So, too, any meaningful interpretation of Revelation depends on discerning the situation John was […]

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Lesson 3: The Heavenly Court in Revelation 4 -5

Lesson 3: The Heavenly Court in Revelation 4 -5

These two chapters lift the veil from heaven so we can see first hand what is happening there. When an angelic voice calls John and places him in his prophetic trance, he finds himself in a throne room at the time of Jesus’ ascension. The prophet describes incredibly magnificent cosmic phenomena and wondrously strange creatures […]

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Salvation

Lesson 1: Are You Saved?

Lesson 1: Are You Saved?

This will be an online version of a course on salvation I am teaching at two congregations this fall. It will be designed for those who find it difficult to attend a face-to-face class because of commuting or home responsibilities. The classes are using Kristin Johnston Largen’s What Christians Can Learn from Buddhism: Rethinking Salvation. […]

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Lesson 2: Now and Not Yet

Lesson 2: Now and Not Yet

This should be fun! I got all sorts of responses to our first lesson. Perhaps the one to which I should respond first was the popular understanding of salvation as something that happens after death. My very intelligent class at Good Shepherd reported trouble with the author we were reading, because she spoke of the […]

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Lesson 3: Resurrection – Salvation

Lesson 3: Resurrection – Salvation

Some people are having difficulty with my description of salvation as “now and not yet”. Myron says the problem is being conditioned to think of resurrection and salvation being almost synonymous and happening after our deaths. The New Testament agrees the two speak of the same thing, but regards them as more than simply being […]

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Sacraments

Lesson 1: Sacraments as a Means of Grace

Lesson 1: Sacraments as a Means of Grace

Talking to Derek last week, I was reminded that I wanted to push myself to look at the commandments and sacraments from a modern perspective. All of us are conditioned to use old concepts when speaking of ancient traditions. They roll off our tongues without much thought. There is certainly no great harm, except when […]

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Lesson 2: Sacrament as God’s Bodily Presence

Lesson 2: Sacrament as God’s Bodily Presence

The sacraments remind us that Christians claim that God is more than spirit. Although most of us can remember having defined God as a spirit at various times, the Church has insisted God is a person. And we all know a person is body as well as spirit. I can appreciate what our theologians are […]

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Lesson 3: The Meaning of Baptism

Lesson 3: The Meaning of Baptism

Early Christians felt baptism was so important they built their houses of worship near running water whenever possible. Those who have visited ancient churches in their travels have seen many were constructed right over springs so that baptisms could be performed with living water. The importance of the sacrament is also reflected in the New […]

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Christian Lifestyle

Lesson 1:   Jesus

Lesson 1: Jesus

Welcome to the new course. It’ll be a little different than the first. I shall try to offer one- page, four- sessions series. Hopefully, that will help everyone to keep up, as the course will work best if we have participants sharing their ideas. The goal is to develop a Christian lifestyle appropriate for our […]

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Lesson 2: The Counter Culture Church – The Radical Life

Lesson 2: The Counter Culture Church – The Radical Life

This is the second of the four Christian lifestyles we’ll examine from our past. Remember we are talking about designs for living rather than theologies, histories, or even ethics. Some believe this radical lifestyle is the only genuine one, because it was the first. It is certainly exemplified by the first three hundred years of […]

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Lesson 3:  The Established Church – The Balanced Life

Lesson 3: The Established Church – The Balanced Life

When Constantine accepted Christianity in the 300s, the counterculture community became one of many institutions performing their functions for the common good. This Established Church took the role of providing religion for conventional society. She has been part of the establishment in some form from that time. The Established Church serves sometimes as the conscience […]

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Ten Commandments

Introduction to the Ten Commandments

Introduction to the Ten Commandments

All Christians, all Jews, and even all Muslims agree the Ten Commandments are a basic statement of how to live according to God’s will. The disagreements come with how to codify these into specific laws. For instance, in our time you could argue all religious people are pro-life even though they do not agree on […]

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Lesson 1: The First Commandment

Lesson 1: The First Commandment

I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me. The command goes on to prohibit making graven images, a command that might appear to be simpler than it really is. It certainly does ban worshiping […]

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Lesson 2: The Second Commandment

Lesson 2: The Second Commandment

You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name. The ancient Israelites took this so seriously that they did not even utter God’s name in fear that they might use it incorrectly. They would insert “Lord” instead of the […]

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Practical Theology

Lesson 1: Practical Christianity

Lesson 1: Practical Christianity

Obviously, the first task is to define what I mean by Practical Christianity. Not so obviously, the second is to point out this is a very controversial subject. When I speak of Practical Christianity I simply mean what faith offers for everyday living here and now. People used to speak of it as “Applied Christianity”. […]

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Lesson 2: Overcoming Suffering

Lesson 2: Overcoming Suffering

The course will look at some of the components of Practical Christianity, sometimes described as the art of Christian living. It will begin examining how Christianity offers a way to overcome suffering, whether this is from natural disaster, social injustice, or personal problems. God obviously does not promise to shield us from the suffering caused […]

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Lesson 3: Cause of Suffering

Lesson 3: Cause of Suffering

After writing, “Suffering is inevitable for all, but some suffer more, and some feel the pains of life more deeply than others, or so it often appears,” Concordia asked, “Is there a point or purpose to any kind of suffering? Does suffering build character?” The answer to those questions is essential for understanding our way […]

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Sabbath

Lesson 1: Introduction

Lesson 1: Introduction

I have attended many, many academic talks. An Anglican bishop at a Muhlenberg college commencement gave the best I’ve heard. He argued observing the Sabbath as a way of life enabled Christians to live with integrity in our technological society. In fact, he went on to suggest the Sabbath was the key to healing our […]

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Lesson 2: Torah Law

Lesson 2: Torah Law

Our project is seeking ways to observe the Sabbath Way of life in our technological society. Let’s begin by looking at the two versions found in the Ten Commandments. Respected scholars claim we should regard these as teachings or guidelines rather than as laws. Exodus 20: 8-11: “Remember the Sabbath day, and keep it holy. […]

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Lesson 3: Sabbath and Wealth

Lesson 3: Sabbath and Wealth

If you had any doubts about the Sabbath commands being more than setting aside a special day for worship, take a look at how the commandment is explicated in other parts of the Torah. Exodus 23: 10-12 expands it to include the land, wild beasts, and the poor. “For six years you shall sow your […]

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