Monday, November 26, 2007

Paul's Theology 101

All of Paul’s epistles (with one exception) were written in response to reports he received from a church with which he was intimately familiar. These epistles are written to address the specific challenge each particular church was facing.

Romans on the other hand, is different. Paul was not very familiar with the church in Rome (1:10). He wanted to go there and make sure that they were rooted in the true teaching of the gospel (1:15). Since he could not get there to teach them the good news (1:13), the best he could do was to write a letter.

In Romans, it can be easily argued, we find the clearest and purest statement of the “good news” as Paul taught it when he was making converts and establishing churches throughout Macedonia and Greece. His other epistles are the practical applications of his basic doctrine to particular situations, but in the epistle we find the basics of the “good news” of Christ.

For this reason, many have described Romans as a theological treatise hidden in the middle of a personal letter. Also for this same reason, it is doctrinally one of the most important books in the Bible.

This letter is truly the most important piece in the New Testament. It is purest Gospel. It is well worth a Christian's while not only to memorize it word for word but also to occupy himself with it daily, as though it were the daily bread of the soul. It is impossible to read or to meditate on this letter too much or too well. The more one deals with it, the more precious it becomes and the better it tastes. – Martin Luther

Saturday, November 03, 2007

"We interrupt this prayer"

I intended to write another short thought about prayer but that will have to go on hold. My wife and I toured the National Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC. I was devastated to learn how the United States did so little to help Jewish refugees from Germany. I had never heard of a boat called the "St. Louis." It left Germany full of Jews that were fleeing to Cuba. Cuba changed its mind and wouldn't let them enter. The ship came and sat off the coast of Miami. The trapped passengers could see the lights of Miami, but the Coast Guard was patrolling to prevent any attempt to swim to freedom. Eventually the ship sailed back to Europe. Several European countries finally agreed to take some of the refugees. Almost all of them were eventually murdered in concentration camps.
The U.S. talked a good game about the Jews being annihilated, but did very little. We were instrumental in starting an international summit about accepting more Jewish refugees, but we did not increase our limits on immigration. I don't normally feel a lot of shame over the United States, but I did in that museum.
It reminded me of how slow we have been to react to Pol-Pot, to Serbia, even to segregation, more recently to the Sudan, and to the Congo. If our Government can be silent while people are systematically murdered, how can we consider ourselves a Christian Nation? If our churches stay silent as well, how can we call ourselves His people?
I will return to this topic, and soon.