Thursday, September 27, 2012

Jesus Married?

By John Warwick Montgomery
Christian News, October 1, 2012

On 18 September, at the International Congress of Coptic Studies meeting in Rome, a Harvard Divinity School professor (one Karen L. King) dropped a bombshell. She produced a tiny, eight-line papyrus fragment including the partial lines: “deny Mary is worthy of it,” “Jesus said to them, My wife,” “she will be able to be my disciple,” and “As for me, I dwell with her in order to.”

Does this suggest that Jesus was married? Does it say something as to the legitimacy of women’s ordination? The press is typically all a-titter over this, as they were a few years ago when an empty ossuary (bone box) turned up in Israel with the inscription, “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus.” (The jury is still out as to whether this is a forgery—but, in any event, all three names in the inscription were very common in 1st century Palestine and need not refer to the family of our Lord at all.)

And now the Coptic fragment. Does it constitute a bombshell—or just another journalistic fizzle? The easy answer is the latter. Why?

(1) It is impossible to determine the real meaning of the text from so few words. Thus, why not the following reconstruction? “[Should Mary be given 10 denarii to buy lunch? I] deny Mary is worthy of it.” “Jesus said to them, My wife [, if I had one, would never manage the budget].” “[Speaking of women, though budgeting is not their strength,] she will be able to be my disciple.” “As for me, I dwell with her in order to [help her become more responsible in financial matters—but only just before the tax collector is scheduled to arrive].” You see the problem . . .

(2) The fragment is in Coptic, not in Greek or Aramaic, and is apparently of the 4th century. Jesus spoke Aramaic and the New Testament documents—the only firsthand, primary source materials concerning his earthy life—are in Koine Greek, the lingua franca of the Roman Empire in Jesus’ time. Suppose someone were to find a fragment in Hungarian, dated yesterday, which purported to contain an admission by French apologist Blaise Pascal (d. 1662) that he was a secret bigamist; how many reputable historians would accept this?

(3) This papyrus clearly falls into the category of the Gnostic materials that floated on the margins of the church in the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th centuries. It is to be classed with the so-called Gnostic Gospels (Gospel of Thomas, Gospel of Philip, Gospel of Mary, Gospel of Judas, etc.) attributed by Gnostic heretics to early Christians in Apostolic circles to give them pseudo-authenticity. Only tendentious writers like Elaine Pagels seriously argue that these writings represent a legitimate alternative theology of Jesus to what is found the canonical New Testament.

The issue is really very simple. The Jesus of the New Testament presents himself—and is presented by the eyewitnesses of his ministry—as no less than God-come-to-earth to die for the sins of the world. The Gnostic materials give us a Jesus of mystical, inner experience and esoteric knowledge, much of which contradicts what the New Testament materials say. The authors of the New Testament writings can be identified (Papias and Polycarp, disciples of the Apostle John, learned from John that Matthew, Mark, and Luke were the authors of the first three Gospels) and the Gospel writings are within a generation of the events of Jesus’ life. (See, for example, Charles F. Hill, From the Lost Teaching of Polycarp, and Robert H. Gundry, The Old Is Better—both from Mohr Siebeck in Tuebingen, 2005 and 2006.) The Gnostic stuff, however, is 2nd century at best and without any demonstrable connection with the earthly ministry of Jesus. The choice between them is not, therefore, very difficult.

So don’t lose sleep over the Coptic fragment. Probably next year a Latin fragment will turn up that says “Jesus . . . Roman governor,” which will be taken to mean that Pontius Pilate and Jesus were actually the same person.

John Warwick Montgomery
Distinguished Research Professor of Philosophy and Christian Thought, Patrick Henry College. Professor emeritus, University of Bedfordshire, England. Ph.D. (Chicago), D.Théol. (Strasbourg, France), LL.D. (Cardiff, Wales, U.K.). Member of the California, D.C., Virginia, Washington State and U.S. Supreme Court bars; Barrister-at-Law, England and Wales; Avocat à la Cour, Paris. Websites:;;

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Bad Religion

“Back to the Bible, Back to Luther”
Christian News, September 24, 2012, Vol .50, No. 37

Bad Religion – How We Became A Nation of Heretics. By Ross Douthat. Free Press, A Division of Simon and Shuster, Inc. 1230 Avenue of Americas, New York, NY 10020. 337 pages. $26.00.

Christian News received this letter from Father Val J. Peter, JCD, STD, Director, The Catholic Center, Dowd Chapel, just as the editor and his wife began their “Golden Wedding Honeymoon” (below). On the first segment of the trip he read the letter and the chapter “Lost in the Gospels.” August 24, 2012 Dear Pastor Otten, In your July 30 Christian News, you printed some of my material on Bart Ehrman who is an atheist plant in the Great Courses. I am enclosing Chapter V of a very important book. The chapter is entitled “Lost in the Gospels.” The book is: Bad Religion - How We Became A Nation of Heretics.

It is written by Ross Douthat, a New York Times columnist. It has many things that you and I both would agree with. It is very interesting.

All the best to you. You folks are doing good work. You now and then say a bad thing about us Catholics, but many of us like you a lot. We can forget about some of that stuff. God bless you now and always. Father Val J. Peter, JCD, STD Executive Director Emeritus

P. S. Ehrman is prominently featured in this chapter.

The jacket says: As THE YOUNGEST-EVER op-ed columnist for the New York Times, Ross Douthat has emerged as one of the most provocative and influential voices of his generation. In Bad Religion he offers a masterful and hard-hitting account of how American Christianity has gone off the rails-and why it threatens to take American society with it.

Writing for an era dominated by recession, gridlock, and fears of American decline, Douthat exposes the spiritual roots of the nation’s political and economic crises. He argues that America’s problem isn’t too much religion, as a growing chorus of atheists have argued; nor is it an intolerant secularism, as many on the Christian right believe. Rather, it’s bad religion: the slow-motion collapse of traditional faith and the rise of a variety of pseudo-Christianities that stroke our egos, indulge our follies, and encourage our worst impulses.

These faiths speak from many pulpits-conservative and liberal, political and pop cultural, traditionally religious and fashionably “spiritual”–and many of their preachers claim a Christian warrant. But they are increasingly offering distortions of traditional Christianity–not the real thing. Christianity’s place in American life has increasingly been taken over, not by atheism, Douthat argues, but by heresy: debased versions of Christian faith that breed hubris, greed, and self-absorption.

In a story that moves from the 1950s to the age of Obama, he brilliantly charts institutional Christianity’s decline from a vigorous, mainstream, and bipartisan faith–which acted as a “vital center” and the moral force behind the civil rights movement–through the culture wars of the 1960s and 1970s to the polarizing debates of the present day. Ranging from Glenn Beck to Barack Obama, Eat Pray Love to Joel Osteen, and Oprah Winfrey to The Da Vinci Code, Douthat explores how the prosperity gospel’s mantra of “pray and grow rich,” a cult of self-esteem that reduces God to a life coach, and the warring political religions of left and right have crippled the country’s ability to confront our most pressing challenges and accelerated American decline.

His urgent call for a revival of traditional Christianity is sure to generate controversy, and it will be vital reading for all those concerned about the imperiled American future.

Ross DOUTHAT is an op-ed columnist for The New York Times. He is the author of Privilege: Harvard and the Education of the Ruling Class and coauthor of Grand New Party: How Republicans Can Win the Working Class and Save the American Dream.
Before joining the Times he was a senior editor for The Atlantic. He is the film critic for National Review, and he has appeared regularly on television, including on Charlie Rose, PBS Newshour, Real Time, and The Colbert Report. Chapter Five, “Lost in the Gospels” begins with a report of the National Geographic Society in 2006 announcing the publication of “The Lost Gospel of Judes.” Ross Douthat writes:

“In the popular press, this was treated as very big news for Christianity—and very bad news for orthodox belief. Having dropped a modest fortune on the project ($1 million to acquire the document, plus the cost of restoration), the National Geographic Society was at pains to tout the newfound gospel’s revolutionary potential. A magazine cover story, a prime-time tele­vision documentary on the text, and multiple critical editions of the gospel soon followed, all of which were shot through with what The New Yorker’s Joan Acocella called ‘sensationalist formulas’ about what the discovery meant for Christian faith. The sensationalism paid off: the Gospel of Judas made front-page news around the world, the documentary earned some of the highest ratings in the history of National Geographic television, and the Society’s official translation swiftly climbed the bestseller lists. Within the year, it was joined by glosses on the text from the University of North Carolina’s Bart Ehrman and Princeton University’s Elaine Pagels, two of the most prominent popularizers of early Christianity’s ‘lost gospels.’ Both had been consultants on the project, and both found it easy to fold the new ‘document into the revisionist story they’d already been telling’ (149-150).

“But if, by ‘real’ and ‘thing,’ one meant that the Gospel of Judas shed light on the actual origins of Christianity, then the answer was a resounding no. The newfound text’s connections to the historical Judas and the historical Jesus of Nazareth were tenuous to nonexistent. Notwithstanding news reports that read (in Bartlett’s words) ‘as if the gospel came straight from Judas’ pen,’ the text could be dated, at the earliest, to the middle of the second century A.D., and there was no evidence that any of its distinctive sayings boasted an earlier provenance. This meant that using the most generous estimates, the Gospel of Judas antedated the New Testament canon by at least fifty years; more likely, it was penned more than a century later. To claim that it threw ‘new light on the historical relationship between Jesus and Judas’, as one early press account put it, was an extraordinary stretch – the equivalent of suggesting that Civil War historians should conduct a critical rereading of Ulysses S. Grant’s memoirs in the light of Michael Shaara’s 1974 novel of Gettysburg, The Killer Angels” (150-151).

Fantasy and Folly
“From highbrow scholarship to middlebrow entertainments, from academic figures like Pagels and Ehrman to popularizers like The Da Vinci Code’s Dan Brown, this debate is dominated by the symbiosis that made the Gospel of Judas such a cultural phenomenon. On the one hand you have the American public, disillusioned with traditional Christianity but still religions enough to be eager for alternative portrayals of Jesus. On the other you have a host of scholars, journalists, novelists, and provocateurs eager to supply them—even to the point of fantasy and folly” (152).

Thomas Jefferson
“America’s heretics have taken all of these approaches. In our founding generation, Thomas Jefferson edited the gospel accounts to remove everything supernatural and apocalyptic-producing a gos-pel fit for Deists and a Nazarene tailored to the Age of Enlightenment” (154).

Smith, White, Eddy, Scofield
“Later Americans sought a similar authenticity, but they were more likely to make additions than to prune. Nearly all our famous start-up faiths have kept the New Testament and then added an extra scripture or two, either as a supplement to the gospels or as a key to interpreting the originals. Joseph Smith’s Book of Mormon gave his Saints a more American and family-friendly Jesus; Ellen Gould White’s The Great Controversy Between Christ and Satan gave Seventh-day Adventists a Christ who vindicated their faith’s apocalyptic origins; Mary Baker Eddy’s, Science and Health with a Key to the Scriptures, reimagined Jesus as the original Christian scientist. Lesser-known spiritualists multiplied gospels prodigiously, as divine voices murmured further revelations in their ears. Even fundamentalism, for all its official emphasis on ‘the Bible alone,’ owes its end-time obsessions to the extracanonical innovations that Cyrus Scofield’s influential Study Bible wove into the scriptures it was supposedly dispassionately interpreting. ‘Unlike most commentators,’ Paul Boyer points out in his history of end­times beliefs, When Time Shall Be No More (1994), ‘Scofield combined his notes and the biblical text on the same page, so the former took on much the same authority as the latter.’

“Both Jefferson and Scofield claimed to be reworking the New Testament based on pure reason and simple common sense, while Smith and White and Eddy and all the various spiritualists claimed to be taking divine dictation. To these tools for recovering the real Jesus, nineteenth-century European academics added a third, the historical-critical method. Their First Quest of the Historical Jesus, as it was later called, flowered in Germany and then spread across the Western world, promising to use the tools of scholarship to excavate the biblical narratives, reveal the layers of inven­tion that lay atop the Jesus of history, and recover the truth about his life. To this end, the First Quest pioneered the use of textual analysis to probe the gospels’ underlying source material, forging the plausible hypothesis that both Matthew and Luke draw on a common proto-gospel-eventually labeled Q from the German Quelle, or ‘source’–whose text has been lost to history. It pioneered, as well, the use of apocryphal literature to reinterpret the early history of the Church. The highly influential ‘Tübingen School’ of biblical criticism propagated an extraordinarily complicated theory, based on noncanonical epistles and forgotten gospels, in which nearly all of the New Testament was composed late in the second century to paper over the dispute between Pauline and Petrine Christianity and to unify the faith under the leadership of Rome. (Subsequent research has not been kind to this hypothesis.) And the First Quest inspired a raft of revision biographies of Christ, which offered differing interpretations of their subject but shared the view that the New Testament accounts were largely mythological, piling on miracle stories to make their merely moral hero seem superhuman.

“These claims were mildly controversial, of course. The English translation of Friedrich Strauss’s The Life of Jesus, Critically Examined (1835) was denounced by a British peer as ‘the most pestilential book ever vomited out of the jaws of hell.’ However, subsequent generations of liberal-minded religious believers came to accept them as practically dispositive. The whole edifice of Protestant modernism in America was founded, in part, on the assumption that biblical scholarship required a new understanding not only of Genesis and Exodus out of Jesus’ life and ministry as well. In his landmark 1922 sermon, ‘Shall the Fundamentalists Win?,’ the modernist minister Henry Emerson Fosdick cited the ‘new knowledge about human history and in particular about the ways in which the ancient peoples used to think in matters of religion’ as his basis for dismissing much of the New Testament’s supernatural passages as little more than pious myth” (154-156). Today even Lutherans who claim to be conservative contend that Harry Emerson Fosdick was a great Christian churchman. Dr. Berthold von Schenk of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod in his autobiography, Lively Stone published and highly praised by the American Lutheran Publicity Bureau, writes that Fosdick was the greatest Christian preacher of his day and Lutheran Hour speaker Walter Maier and Oswald Hoffman the worst. A hymn by Fosdick is included in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod’s new Lutheran Service Book.

Ehrman and Pagels
“Meanwhile, wherever this narrowing takes us-whether we end up with Jesus the Gnostic mystic, the Cynic philosopher, the proto-feminist, or the apocalyptic prophet-the present-day theological implications of his ‘real’ identity usually turn out to look a lot like the accommodationist Christianity of the Protestant Mainline. And they almost always represent a rebuke to Evangelical Christianity, conservative politics, and the combination thereof.

“Sometimes this is made clear through the authors’ personal flourishes. Ehrman recounts his own ‘up from fundamentalism’ story in most of his bestselling books, returning again and again to the way the biblical literalism of his childhood was shattered by a collegiate encounter with New Testament scholarship. Pagels writes about her teenage flirtation with Evangelicalism – which ended ‘after a close friend was killed in an automobile accident at the age of sixteen, [and] my fellow evangelicals commiserated but declared that, since he was Jewish and not ‘born again,’ he was eternally damned’” (161).

CN has for many years exposed the anti-scriptural theology of Ehrman and Pagels.

Dan Brown
“To say that these kinds of briefs are unpersuasive is to understate the case. They speak the language of the conspiratorial pamphlet, the paranoid chain e-mail-or the paperback thriller. Which is why it’s only fitting that the greatest popularizer by far of lost gospels and alternative Christianities isn’t Pagels or Ehrman–or any of the Jesus Seminar’s academics. It’s the bestselling novelist Dan Brown.

“In fairness, the term bestselling novelist seems too modest to do justice to an author who has outsold almost every other English-language scribbler for the last decade and counting. Certainly it doesn’t do justice to Dan Brown’s intellectual ambitions, which have been crucial to his extraordinary success. If you want to sell a million copies of a potboiler, you need to know how to hook the reader and keep the pages turning. But if you want to sell the nearly 100 million copies that Brown’s The Da Vinci Code has sold, you need to preach as well as entertain-to present fiction that can be read as fact and that promises to unlock the secrets of history, the universe, and God along the way” (173).

Tragedy for American Christianity
“This failure of vision hasn’t been a tragedy just for the Mainline Protestant denominations. It’s a tragedy for American Christianity as a whole. For a generation or more, many of the writers who might have busied themselves exploring and explaining the Christian tradition— to the benefit of the secular world and ordinary believers alike—have been engaged instead in a project that has undercut historic Christianity while building nothing lasting in its place. The cultural impact of figures like Pagels and Ehrman and Borg and Crossan has been almost entirely destabilizing. Rather than propagating an understanding of Jesus’ identity that’s more intellectually compelling than the orthodox portrait, all they’ve succeeded in doing is validating the idea that Jesus’ identity is entirely up for grabs, and that one can be a follower of Christ without having to accept any constraints on what that ‘following’ might mean” (178).

Fundamentalism and Glenn Beck
“At the same time, the way that many fundamentalists actually interpret the Bible-through Cyrus Scofield’s dispensationalist framework-is precisely the sort of do-it-yourself Christianity that real-Jesus ‘scholarship’ implicitly encourages. What are the Left Behind novels if not a ‘new fiction that takes as its starting point the central event in the Judaeo-Christian drama and reconciles that middle with a new story that reaches beyond old beginnings and endings’? Like Funk and Pagels and so many others, fundamentalists have fashioned a Jesus in their own image, and declared that he is good.

“For a more specific example of how this works—how the work of ‘real Jesus’ intellectuals influences American religious culture in ways that they would probably find horrifying—consider the following excerpt from an episode of Glenn Beck’s radio show. This is the last place, in a sense, that one would expect to find echoes of accommodationist Christianity, since Beck is a right-wing Mormon who rather famously urged his Christian listeners to quit their denomination or congregation if it used the leftwardtilting term ‘social justice’ in its literature” (179).

Joel Osteen
“The most influential work of popular theology published this century comes with a glossy gold dust jacket and a slew of celebrity blurbs on the back. Celebrity Texan blurbs, mostly: Chuck Norris loved the book; so did the former NBA coach Rudy Tomjanovich; so did the then-owner of the Houston Astros, Drayton McLane; so did David Carr, the Houston Texans’ quarterback. The author himself gazes out from the front cover: his black hair is piled up and slick with gel; his hands are extended and touching at the fingertips; his smile is enormous, front teeth like piano keys or filed-down tusks. The book’s title hovers like an angel above his left shoulder, promising Your Best Life Now: 7 Steps to Living at Your Full Potential.

“This is Joel Osteen, a Houston-based preacher who inherited a 7,500 seat megachurch from his late father, John Osteen, in 1999, and parlayed his pastorship into the highest-rated religious television show in America, a trio of #1 New York Times bestsellers, and a home for his congregation, Lakewood Church, in Houston’s 18,000-seat Compaq Center” (180). “Like Graham, Osteen courts a worldwide audience: More than 200 million people around the globe tune in to his broadcasts. And like Graham, he’s been known to sell out Madison Square Garden” (183).

But Osteen and his imitators are the heirs to a particular strain of prosperity preaching, which has its origin in the late-nineteenth-century movement known as New Thought. This was a loosely affiliated collection of ministers, authors, activists, and organizations, united by their belief in the extraordinary potential of the human mind. New Thought’s practitioners argued that mental and spiritual realities shaped material events, that God (or ‘Infinite Intelligence,’ to the more secular minded) pervaded the universe, and that the physical realities that human beings experienced—good health and bad, bankruptcy and success—had their origins in the mental and metaphysical spheres. Thus, prayer could lead to healing, and positive thinking to worldly wealth. The key was to recognize the spark of divinity within yourself and bring it into alignment with the divine spirit of the universe” (184).

Douthat goes on to comment about L. Ron Hubbard’s Church of Scientology, Mary Baker Eddy, and Christian Science, E.W. Kenyon, Kenneth Hagin, Paul Crouch and the Trinity Broadcast Network, Tim and Tammy Bakker, Creflow August Dollar, Jr., Fredrick K.C. Price, Benny Hinn, the Copelands, Bruce Wilkenson and the Prayer of Jabez, T.D. Jakes, Larry Burkett, Campus Crusade for Christ, Promise Keepers, the Left Behind Series, Rick Warren, Peter Drucker, James Dobson, the Word Faith Movement, a strong Catholic affinity for wealth redistribution, American Catholics, Michael Novak, Elizabeth Gilbert, Deepak Chopra, Oprah Winfrey, Aimee Semple McPherson, Harold Bloom, Richard Dawkins, Karen Armstrong, and much more.

Joyce Meyer
“This is a good description Joyce Meyer, who has emerged as perhaps the most popular and mainstream of TBN’s preachers apart from Osteen. An ex-housewife with a twelfth-grade education, as she often describes herself, Meyer endured childhood sexual abuse and a failed marriage before finding her calling as the author of more than fifty inspirational books, and as the face of the Life in the Word television show, which airs in forty-three states and seventy countries. Her goal, according to a recent slogan, is ‘every nation, every city, every day.’ On the page and in person, she seems less like a celebrity preacherette in the Tammy Faye Bakker or Gloria Copeland mode, and more like the sensible Christian housewife next door. She dresses simply and talks bluntly, offering earthy, self-deprecating pep talks that emphasize emotional well-being and then slip the promise of financial success in between the lines.

“That promise is still crucial to Meyer’s appeal. ‘The whole Bible really has one message: “Obey me and do what I tell you to do, and you’ll be blessed,” she told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in 2004, when it ran a series of stories revealing just how blessed she has been. (These blessings include, yes, a private jet.) But she’s careful not to flaunt her wealth, and she’s more restrained in her pray-and-grow-rich preaching than the earlier generation of prosperity apostles” (188).

Pentecostal and Charismatic Worship
“For many of these celebrity preachers, white as well as black, prosperity theology turns out to be natural fit with Pentecostalist and charismatic styles of worship. When students of religion analyze the rise of Pentecostalism, they usually focus on the ecstastic prayer services, the reports of physical healing, and the insistence that the spiritual gifts of the early Church (such as speaking in tongues and prophecy) are available to present-day believers. But from the moment of its birth, in a famous 1906 outbreak of glossolalia in Los Angeles’s Azusa Street Church, Pentecostalism has been a fertile field for prosperity theology as well. The movement’s emphasis on the extraordinary power of prayer dovetails neatly with the tenets of New Thought. Its demographic base – blacks, immigrants, the white petite bourgeoisie–has an understandable interest in a gospel of upward mobility. Its distance from the institutions and traditions of both Catholicism and Reformation-era Protestantism creates a theological vacuum that the prosperity gospel’s boosters are more than eager to fill. And Pentecostalism’s entrepreneurial structure, in which every church is effectively a start-up, has always attracted ministers prone to the kind of self-aggrandizement that’s more easily justified by prosperity theology than by more orthodox strands of Christian faith.

“Small wonder, then, that from the Jazz Age evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson down to TBN’s nightly lineup of televangelists, Pentecostalist worship and prosperity preaching have been consistently intertwined. Indeed, prosperity theology may actually be eclipsing ecstatic prayer as the defining attribute of modern charismatic Christianity. As Christianity Today’s, Ted Olsen, noted in 2006, only half of American Pentecostalists report having spoken in tongues-but 66 percent agreed with the premise that ‘God grants believers wealth.’

“Crucially, though, it isn’t just Pentecostalists who think this way. The same survey found that 43 percent of ‘other Christians’ – white and black, Catholic, Mainline, and Evangelical alike – concurred that the Almighty showers riches on believers” (193-194).

Marriage and Depression
“Americans are less happy in their marriages than they were thirty years ago; women’s self-reported happiness has dipped downward overall. Our social circles have constricted: declining rates of churchgoing have been accompanied by declining rates of just about every sort of social joining and Americans seem to have fewer and fewer friends whom they genuinely trust. Our familial networks have shrunk as well. More children are raised by a single parent; fewer people marry or have children to begin with; and more and more old people live and die alone. A Duke University study found that Americans reported having an average of three people with whom they discussed important matters in 1985, but only two in 2004; the percentage with exactly zero confidants doubled, and the percentage who talked only to family members rose from 57 percent to about 80 percent. We’re freer than we used to be, but also more isolated, lonelier, and more depressed” (240).

“The result is a nation where gurus and therapists have filled the roles once occupied by spouses and friends, and where professional caregivers minister, like seraphim around the throne, to the needs of people taught from infancy to look inside themselves for God. Therapeutic religion promises contentment, but in many cases it seems to deliver a sort of isolation that’s at once comfortable and terrible-leaving us alone with the universe, alone with the God Within” (241).

In God’s Hands
“This book has been written in a spirit of pessimism, but for both Americans and Christians, pessimism should always be provisional. Even in an era of disarray, Americans can draw confidence from our nation’s remarkable past, with its stories of expectations confounded, obstacles overcome, declines reversed, and better futures attained. Christians have an even stronger source of confidence: the belief that history has an Author and that the destiny of both their country and their creed is in God’s hands” (278).

“My hope throughout has been to persuade even the most skeptical reader that traditional Christian faith might have more to offer this country than either its flawed defenders or its fashionable enemies would lead one to believe” (293).

The Roman Catholic Ross Douthat displays an amazing grasp about what has been happening within Christendom. Yet CN does not share his enthusiasm for Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Karl Barth, Martin Luther King, C.S. Lewis, De Chardin, Richard Neuhaus, Carl Braaten, Billy Graham, Fuller Seminary, Pope John Paul II, Pope Paul VI, and Pope Benedict XVI. During the last 50 years CN has frequently opposed their anti-scriptural theology.

Bonhoeffer, Barth, and King all denied the resurrection of Christ. Neuhaus attacked the inerrancy of the Bible, justification by faith alone and was a pro-homosexual universalist. The Roman Catholic scholar Randy Engel shows in the 1300 page The Rite of Sodomy – Homosexuality and the Roman Catholic Church, that Pope Paul VI and many other leading Roman Catholics were homosexuals. Roman Catholic Bro. Michael & Brother Peter Dimond in their “The Truth About What Really Happened to the Catholic Church After Vatican II” documents the fact that Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI departed from historic Christianity.

Douthat mentions Billy Graham’s 1967 New York crusade. This editor and Martin Scharlemann were there. Their church participated. Scharlemann wrote in the Concordia Theological Monthly that Graham’s chief weakness was a failure to affirm the scriptural doctrine of justification. All this is in CN’s Christian News Encyclopedia.

Barth’s Inerrancy
Douthat writes: “In their haste to defend scriptural authority against scoffing scientists and academic critics, fundamentalists adopted a radical literalism—including the deadly ‘six 24 hour days’ reading of Genesis 1 – that their Protestant forebears had traditionally rejected. (‘He who would learn astronomy’, John Calvin wrote of Genesis 1, ‘let him go elsewhere.’) Meanwhile, their political and cultural anxieties left them prey to millenarian scenarios, chief among them the ‘dispensationalist’ reading of Scripture popularized in the 1910s by Cyrus Scofield’s bestselling Scofield Reference Bible, which claimed to trace, with quasiscientific precision, a series of stages in salvation history that would soon culminate in the Second Coming of Christ. (This was the first time that the now-commonplace idea of a ‘Rapture’ of believers entered Christian thought.)” (34).

The Bible, the Lutheran Confessions, Martin Luther, and the founding fathers of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod all teach the inerrancy of the Bible and a 6 24 hour day creation.

Such heroes of the fundamentalist as Hodge, Warfield, and some authors of The Fundamentals did not. Orthodox Lutherans did not learn from the Fundamentalists. In fact, in a certain sense true Lutherans “out fundamentalize” the Fundamentalists, just as they out-catholicize the Roman Catholics. Lutherans accept scripture just as it reads. When Jesus says “this is my body” and “this is my blood” Lutherans insist “is” means “is.” The Fundamentalists say “is” means represents. Lutherans recognize that the true Christian church began in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve believed in the coming Messiah, Jesus Christ, (Genesis 3:15, 4:1 – Luther and AAT translation) Lutherans reject Scofield and all millenialism as an anti-scriptural Jewish myth.

Rome Today
Douthat does not recognize that today the Roman Catholic Church has become just one more “anything goes” denomination. It is much further from the truth than it was 500 years ago when it did not promote such fiction as the infallibility of the Pope, the Immaculate Conception and Assumption of Mary, and the nonsense of Mary appearing to the non-existent Juan Diego, whom the pope declared a saint.

The answer to “Bad Religion” as the 500th anniversary of the Reformation approaches in 2017 is “Back to the Bible, Back to Luther, Back to the Lutheran Confessions" of 1580 and the formation of a 21st Century Formula of Concord which will reaffirm the Formula of Concord of 1580 and also speak to the issues of our day: evolution, homosexuality, abortion, birth-control, higher criticism, sex outside of marriage, the inerrancy of the Bible in all matters, millennialism, etc.

Lutheran Hour speaker, Walter Maier, wrote in the November 1933 Walther League Messenger at the 450th anniversary of Luther’s birth:

“We repeat the appeal to American Protestantism is: ‘BACK TO LUTHER!’ And if this be a battle cry that is to summon the latent forces of complacent laity to action; if it be the rallying summons to a spiritual crusade for Christ; if it means the splitting of the church into two groups, one liberal and unbelieving, and the other conservative and faithful unto death; if it requires the breaking of conventional ties, the banishment of pulpit Judases, then we will repeat the cry: ‘BACK TO LUTHER?’”