Free resource for baptism candidates and classes

I had responsibility to prepare a handful of candidates for adult baptism some fifteen years ago. After completing Jack Miller’s Sonship Course in 1996 (World Harvest Mission, Jenkintown, PA), the German Reformer Martin Luther’s understanding of active faith in Christ became precious. As I thought how to prepare candidates, it came to me that there is no need to reinvent twenty centuries of Christian experience. Thinkers and pastors have worked on initiation into the Christian life. So, I prepared an approachable edition of Luther’s Small Catechism. Run it in at least three sessions. You would need to research, possibly by personal Bible study or hearing a sermon or lecture related to each session. Click below and help yourself. If you see possible edits or changes in structure, or would like to add commentary, please, get in touch. Baptism, Move of Faith

I should note that Jack Miller’s disorganized but quite wonderful Sonship course took inspiration from many sources including Luther’s Commentary on Galatians (available here and there on the net for free;  probably the best thing you could read today or any day for free, except the Bible). Richard Lovelace’s Dynamics of Spiritual Life — Lovelace was a Gordon-Conwell Seminary prof at the same time as Jack was a renegade prof at Westminster Seminary Phila. —  tracks closely with Sonship. “Why do we live the Christian life as orphans when those in Christ are sons and daughters?” might be the focussing question of Sonship.


Smart article on marriage in NYT July 18

2015-07-19_211429Pretty funny piece on being married, smart, this weekend’s NY Times.

Great bits: Her proposed toast!

“…it’s unlikely they will be each other’s best friend every single minute forever. And that while it’s good to aim high, it’s quite probable they will let each other down many times in ways both petty and profound that in this blissful moment they can’t even fathom.

Hard to imagine that making many glasses clink happily, but press on!

Her editorial comments:

It is easy for people who have never tried to do anything as strange and difficult as being married to say marriage doesn’t matter, or to condemn those who fail at it, or to mock those who even try. But there is so much beauty in the trying, and in the failing, and in the trying again. Peter renounced Jesus three times before the cock crowed. And yet, he was the rock upon whom Christ built his church.

Hey, a theology of grace in the NYT. Whew. So much better than the good old “try harder.” Ragamuffin Brennan Manning Jack Miller Martin Luther Sonship pure pleasure. Have your own read.




What do those able to resist immense social pressure do right?

Cliffjumpers. Credit Dennis Graves. Creative Commons

Cliffjumpers. Credit Dennis Graves. Creative Commons

“The Day After Trinity” is a one-hour documentary on the unusually sensitive and literate organizer of the American 1940s atomic bomb scientific team. We ve been hearing about the seventieth anniversary of the testing of the first A-bomb in New Mexico, July 1945. For most of the period of the bomb’s development 1943-1945, the fear that the European fascists might get it and use it first compelled a counter project to deter its use. (Mutual Assured Destruction seems to have rationalized the horror device from the beginning.) However, well before testing, the European fascists surrendered in the first few days of May, 1945. After Victory-in-Europe Day, no “reason” for continuing the development existed. Yet, of the thousands of scientists working at the secret LosAlamos site on the “gadget,” only one resigned. “The Day After Trinity” includes the regrets of a scientist brought up as a Quaker who had convened meetings at Los Alamos to talk about the morality of the work, but who did not resign. Partly the solidarity was from J. Robert Oppenheimer’s personality, it seems. The sheer jouissance of the project brought its own inertia, too. Oppenheimer began to think differently almost as he saw the test explosion. He became an advocate of limitations on the use of the weapons that got him into trouble with the US government in the middle 1950s.

Zygmunt Bauman says about the Nazi genocide that it would have been well-nigh impossible even to conceive of exterminating a people apart from an engineering approach to society, entailing expertise, scientific management, and bureaucracy — all characteristic of an advanced state of modernity (reference below). Social settings make cruelty possible.

Perhaps these two observations above underline the contrary power of God’s people who fear God first and foremost. The book of Daniel includes this well-known-but -worth-studying window:

(The three Jewish civil servants) answered the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to present a defense to you in this matter. 17 If our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire and out of your hand, O king, let him deliver us. 18 But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods and we will not worship the golden statue that you have set up.” (ch. 3, NRSV)

Jesus said,  “I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that can do nothing more. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him!  Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten in God’s sight. But even the hairs of your head are all counted. Do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows. (Luke 12 paralleled at Matt 10)

The earliest church discovered the gumption to implement Jesus’ advice. Early leader Tertullian coined the saying, “The blood of Christians is seed,” actually, “Semen est sanguis Christianorum.” Such severe witness is seed of new life. Confirmation that you have something worth living for that you have something worth dying for, .

Perhaps there is no “best practices” or “how to” enabling resistance at the point of fierce temptation. Perhaps a rule of thumb is to be in tune — be read up in scripture, keep alert, be in prayer on a regular basis. No substitute for general spiritual well-being exists, neither in pill form nor one-hour crash session, or other. When Cranmer or Latimer or Hus or Clement, to say nothing of Stephen (Acts 6-8) faced the flames or stones, perhaps only empowerment by the Spirit of God made persistence possible. Jesus said as much:

“Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day does not catch you unexpectedly, like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.” (Luke 21:34-36)


Day After Trinity, first part of nine (as of 20150719) is at

Thanks to for clarification on the Tertullian quote.

Roberts, David D. The Totalitarian Experiment in Twentieth-Century Europe: Understanding the Poverty of Great Politics. New York and London: Taylor & Francis, 2006 p. 387

Boyhood film and buying the Christian message

The filmmaker started twelve plus years ago with a child actor. His character Mason is the boy of the title, and we follow him from early awareness to his start at college. It’s two hours and forty six minutes but it clips along just like life. In fact, as the article that gotBoyhood_film me interested said (link below) we watch twelve years in only three hours or so, and the pace or compression of time leads us — like Mason — to ask the really big question — to me, the only question that matters: what is it all about.

A sequence in the second half of the film has adoptive grandparents attend church with Mason and his sister, and they give Mason a Bible as a grad present. I felt his bewilderment. It wouldn t have cut any ice for 16 year old me, either. Both church and Bible are another world and as a viewer I saw my church weirdness reflected back at me. Had Bruce Cockburn not come along, or Schumacher’s Guide for the Perplexed, I might never have found a bridge to get across to Christian faith. Who might be bridgemakers now? Ragamuffin Gospel? Shane Claiborne? I’m at a loss.

The film ends with Mason’s new roommate making a kind of existential affirmation of the power of nature and a desert sunset. As I watched it seemed like one more random thing but now I ll have to go back and see if it’s not a key.

Official trailer

appreciation — Rabbinical student appreciation