Archive for December, 2014


My Christmas article for this year is up at The Canadian Lutheran.

“When it comes to Christmas, the picture of the baby Jesus asleep in a manger is etched in our cultural consciousness. We imagine the little Lord Jesus laying down His sweet head in the hay, while stars twinkle away in the sky. How easy it is to forget that this little child is also, in a way beyond our understanding, the God who made the universe. He is the Word who spoke creation into existence (Genesis 1:3 ff; John 1:1-3). And He is the One who continues to sustain creation—the One who holds all things together and gives them being (Colossians 1:17; Acts 17:28).”

But, as I note, that good creation fell. So I ask the question:

What sort of Saviour could heal and utterly ruined creation? What Saviour could restore the relationship between humanity and God? It could be no mere man for any human born would himself inherit the sinful nature of our first parents Adam and Eve. And yet it must be a man if justice were to be done; humanity had sinned and it was humanity that must pay the price for that sin.”

Thus begins my meditation on the mystery of the Incarnation—an event that brings forgiveness for sinners and restoration to a broken creation. Consequently, we celebrate not only Jesus’ birth at Christmas but our rebirth as well.

As we celebrate the birth of Mary’s son Jesus we therefore also celebrate our adoption as children of God. For it was the one that made possible the other. ‘To all who received Him, He gave the right to become children of God,’ St. John tells us (John 1:12). All who are in Christ are made new. ‘Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation,’ St. Paul explains. ‘The old has passed away; behold, the new has come’ (2 Corinthians 5:17).”

Read the whole thing in “God in the Flesh: The Meaning of Christmas.”



You may have heard that Russell Saltzman, former editor of Forum Letter and a former dean of the North American Lutheran Church, is converting to Roman Catholicism. That news precipitated my most recent article for First Things, “The Evangelical Catholic Tradition: Reclaiming the Lutheran Heritage.”

In the article I explore Saltzman’s reasons for leaving Lutheranism vis-à-vis Jaroslav Pelikan’s, who famously converted to Orthodoxy in his 70s. As it happens, I had been reading one of Pelikan’s early works when I heard the news of Saltzman’s conversion, so the comparison seemed apropos.

I go on to note what both Saltzman and Pelikan have noted: that Lutheranism itself never intended to create a new church; the Lutheran movement itself was deeply catholic.

That the Lutheran tradition intended to be faithful to the catholic tradition does not seem to be in doubt with either Saltzman or Pelikan: “Philipp Melancthon’s profession that “the churches among us do not dissent from the catholic church in any article of faith” is understood to be an accurate assessment of the intentions of the historic Lutheran church. No, the problem lies not in the Lutheran tradition, according to these writers, but instead with contemporary expressions of Lutheranism.”

Saltzman notes a general dissatisfaction with those Lutherans who have rejected this rich catholic heritage. Pelikan, decades before his transition to Orthodoxy, noted similar concerns. To be sure, I agree, “contemporary Lutheranism may have its flaws” but this doesn’t change the fact that, “at its core the Lutheran tradition is deeply and fundamentally catholic. The riches of the catholic tradition are already ours, and at our best we embrace that heritage. I pray that our churches will delve deeper into that tradition.”

Read it all over at First Things.



Sometimes we get strange things in the mail at work. Today is one of those days. I received a package with all sorts of… er, “useful”… information, including photocopies of some prophetic end-of-the-world magazines . One of the photocopied articles claims that the Vatican and Muslims are about to fight out a new Crusade over Jerusalem (because, you know, Catholics=Bad; who else would be responsible for a new crusade?).

Other important tidbits in the package:

1) A list of heresies (quite handy), which notes such heretical acts as the use of “wax candles” in church.

2) A “How-to” document on staying out of debt and keeping healthy. Last suggestion is “Refuse to do anything that will help create a one-world police-state, a one-world satanic-religion, or a one-world cashless society.” (Curiously it also suggests keeping a six-month stock of candles on hand in case of emergency; so I guess candles are okay unless you’re using them in church…)

3) A photocopy of a handwritten statement on the dangers of electromagnetic radiation. But you can apparently reduce the danger by purchasing Tesla Purple Free Energy Plates. Good to know.

4) A note that only those who tithe exactly 10% (that’s before deductions, you sinner!), observe the Sabbath from Friday sundown to Saturday sundown (not Sunday, you heretics!), and use the King James Version of the Bible (drop that NIV and ESV, you reprobates!) will be saved. “Everyone else is under a curse and will be eliminated when Jesus Christ returns in the near future.” (One of the end-of-the-world article photocopies dates back to 1984, so I guess “near future” is a relative term).

The only odd thing I can’t understand is why they didn’t want to include a return address…