Reformation + 500

Next year marks the 500th anniversary of Luther’s “95 Theses,” the traditional starting point of the Protestant Reformation. Lutherans and Catholics and others are preparing for an ecumenical celebration, rooted in the supposed “consensus” on justification achieved in 1997 with the publication of the “Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification” signed by the Lutheran…

A Chaplain Who Spoke Up

Chris Antal resigned his commission a couple of weeks ago as a chaplain in the US Army Reserve.  He posted his letter of resignation on the webpage of the Unitarian-Universalist Church he pastors. April 12, 2016 … Dear Mr. President: I hereby resign my commission as an Officer in the United States Army. I resign…

A Spotlight on Memories

I started this post two months ago, after watching the movie, “Spotlight.” I wrote some, but then stopped.  The movie brought back a flood of old emotions, because its story intersects with mine in a couple of places.  I tell the story of my journey of faith here, and so won’t now repeat everything.  For purposes…

22 Vets a Day. True/False? Does It Matter?

Twenty-two.  That’s the number you’ll often see associated with veterans who suicide–twenty-two per day. I’ve seen a couple of reactions to it.  Some think it means that service members are coming back from deployments messed up and killing themselves in extremely high numbers.  Others dismiss the number, say it gives us a bad name; they point out that…

Whither Chaplaincy?

Note:  This reflection is a personal response to things I’ve recently read and conversations I’ve participated in. And I’ve made some revisions in response to some of the comments I’ve received. Chaplaincy is ministry.  It is ministry in a specialized setting: hospital, military, college, prison, etc. But it is ministry. It is pastoral. I find…

Goodbye, again.

Garrison Keillor has been saying goodbye as long as I have been listening to him.  I think I first heard him in the summer of 1986.  I was a seminarian, and went out to preach one weekend at one church in a multi-church district in western Pennsylvania.  The district pastor was a friend and classmate,…

Faith or Fear?

(An Epiphany sermon–Note, there are references to some pictures and charts that I haven’t had time to add to this post.  I also want to give links to some stats.) If you drive a few miles southeast of Jerusalem you’ll come across a mountain. It looks like a volcano. But an aerial view shows the…

Allegiance: A Tale for Today

The musical, “Allegiance,” which recently closed on Broadway, is based on the childhood experience of actor George Takei and his family in an internment camp during World War II. I haven’t seen the play, but I recently listened to the album. While set in the 1940s, the themes are echoed in the hate-filled shouting match…

Four Chaplains

Thirty years ago next month I raised my hand, took the oath of office, and was commissioned a Second Lieutenant, Chaplain Candidate, in the US Army Reserve. That summer, as a student in the Chaplain Officer Basic Course at Fort Monmouth, NJ, I first heard the story of the four chaplains: George Fox, Alexander Goode,…

The God of Abraham

In a recent post, I began to respond to David French‘s claim that Christians and Muslims must worship different gods, since the Christian God is a Trinity and the Muslim God is not. I argued that if he is correct, then it would be necessary to argue that Jews and Christians worship different gods, too.…

Christmas Reflections

(An article I first wrote about 1994) Introduction: Revelation 12:1-6 We begin with a strange, yet powerful image. We see a woman, ripe with child–a symbol of new life and of hope. And as the moment draws near, we see her writhing in pain, her legs spread in anticipation; and crouching before her, gnashing its…

Christians, Jews, and Muslims–Children of Abraham

David French, writing in National Review, argues that Christians and Muslims worship different gods.  He basically argues that the true God is known only through Christ, and only as Trinity.  Ergo, anyone who does not believe the Trinity or accept Jesus as God must worship a different god. By this logic, Jews must also worship a different…

Healing After War

I’m a U.S. Army chaplain, serving in the Texas Army National Guard.  I was first commissioned as a Chaplain Candidate while in seminary back in March of 1986.  That fall, I did Clinical Pastoral Education at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.  I was twenty-four, and I was the chaplain for neurology and neurosurgery, orthopedics, and…

Jeremiah’s Lessons for Veterans

(Remarks presented at Adult Sabbath School, Vallejo Drive Adventist Church) Jeremiah’s story goes from outcry and lament to anger and finally to hope. That’s the journey of many veterans. Let’s start with his lament. It echoes for me in the stories of my soldiers and vets. Soldiers love to complain. And if they complain to…

On Writing about Sex

The liberal independent publication, Spectrum, published by the “Association of Adventist Forums,” writes a lot about sexual diversity.  In a recent article, they celebrate a pastor’s wife’s “asexuality.”  This publication has long pushed for acceptance of homosexuality. The only kind of sex Spectrum doesn’t celebrate is the baby-making heterosexual variety. It does not appear to accept that there might be…

The Pope and Annulments

So the news is that the pope wants to make changes in the system for annulments.  The Roman Catholic Church is debating what it means. The rest of the Christian world can’t understand why Rome has the system.  It is one of the human additions to Christianity that the papacy added–tribunals and judges, investigations and…

The Pope’s Visit

Some folks said they wanted to talk to me about the pope’s visit at some point.  Other friends are showing a strange fascination with it.  A few think it is a sure sign of the end of time. Well, I’m not too worried.  He’s a famous person, and a religious leader, and people listen to…

“Jesus or Religion”?

Jesus or religion–it’s assumed by so many today that the two are very different.  It’s popular to emphasize a personal relationship with Jesus as in opposition to religion.   It’s as if religion is this external stuff,  objective, cold, dry, and Jesus is warmth and life.  Well, that’s hardly a critique unique to today’s postmodernism.…

The Last of the Jedi

There are days when I feel I am one of the last of the Jedi, as a military chaplain.  America is dying; it is being corrupted from within, and twisted, like Rome of old.  Passions are inflamed by demagogues, and the masses are kept blissfully ignorant through bread and circuses. We chaplains once had moral…

Pastors and Chaplains

Thom S. Rainer is the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Prior to LifeWay, he served at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary for twelve years where he was the founding dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism. He’s written an article, “Ten Signs a Pastor is Becoming a Chaplain.” I think…

Is Marriage a Religious Doctrine?

Since when is marriage, defined as a union of man and wife, a religious dogma, such that recognition of it is imposition of a religious belief? That’s the argument that some people are making in the wake of Kim Davis’ act of civil disobedience.  They argue that her stance represents an “establishment”of Christianity, and that the…

Thoreau and the “Higher Law”

“I saw that the State was half-witted, that it was timid as a lone woman with her silver spoons, and that it did not know its friends from its foes, and I lost all my remaining respect for it, and pitied it. Thus the State never intentionally confronts a man’s sense, intellectual or moral, but…

Theodore Parker and the “Higher Law”

I did my MA thesis on the Boston Unitarian pastor and abolitionist, Theodore Parker. He was an avid proponent of “civil disobedience,” the idea that men must disobey human laws that conflict with the “Higher Law” of God. Opposing the law requiring the return of fugitive slaves to their masters, he said those who passed…

Post GC – Women in Adventism

This Thursday, the Ellen White Estate will post online her complete writings, revealing to the public for the first time documents that were long accessible only to select scholars.  Instead of “Brother B” and “Sister A,” the reader will know who was being addressed. Instead of snippets collected out of context, you’ll be able to…

Thoughts on the History and Theology of Ordination

This summer, the Seventh-day Adventist Church will discuss the question of the ordination of women to the gospel ministry. In preparation for this discussion, the Adventist Church appointed a Theology of Ordination Study Committee (TOSC), which issued its report in the fall of 2014. I’ve written about some of the uniquely Adventist aspects of this…

The Ordination of Women

Originally posted on Advent Hope:
Arguments against the ordination of women in Protestant churches are wrongly framed. The issue is not ordination. That is a smokescreen. What is ordination but laying on hands and appointing someone for a particular work?  The issue is, rather, what kind of work women can do in a church.  And…

Sine Die

I went about three months without a post.  During that time I’ve been busy both with work, and with my volunteer responsibilities with the VFW, the American Legion, and the Lone Star Veterans Association.  One of my duties is as legislative chair for the American Legion posts in the Houston area, and the past six…

A Vision for Public Campus Ministry

In the late 19th century, as states were taking advantage of federal land grants to establish major universities, Christians in many denominations caught a vision of these new schools as a ripe mission field. In some places, pastors of nearby churches began to reach out to students, while in other places, students of similar faith…

On War Movies

I saw “American Sniper” yesterday.  It was uncomfortable viewing. I appreciated its portrayal of Kyle’s struggles to reintegrate after deployment–something especially difficult, I would think, in a job where you have repeated short deployments with little transition time, and when you are not part of a large unit and so are dealing with reintegration issues…