American Christians can celebrate three Christmases. The most obvious is secular Christmas. In Pittsburgh secular Christmas has been officially dubbed "Sparkle Season." Sparkle Christmas begins soon after Halloween. Unless you become a hermit or find another way to escape the world, this Christmas is impossible to avoid.
For decades Reformation Sunday has been on the annual calendar of many mainline Protestant churches in the United States. Held on a Sunday near Oct. 31, it commemorates Martin Luther's protest against the Roman Catholic Church. Often its observance has been a way in which Protestants distinguished themselves from Roman Catholics.
Grace and gratitude lie at the heart of Christian faith. Yet their meaning is far from selfÐevident. This has become clear to me, year after year, in teaching seminary and divinity students, for whom the most basic aspects of the gospel are sometimes as difficult as a foreign language. The difficulties in understanding grace extend, however, beyond the classroom, as should be clear to anyone who has focused carefully and critically upon the divisive debates that have strewn their wreckage over the life of the church in recent times. So then, what is the meaning and substance of grace?
Presbyterians pride themselves on being realistic Christians. This is due to the Reformed emphasis that human nature is not perfect nor are human achievements self-sufficient. From a Reformed perspective, all cultural and scientific "advancements" are subject to theological scrutiny. What is sought is a reforming attitude toward the totality of life.
In recent issues, the topic of Jesus Christ has been addressed in this column: Who is he? What has he done for us and our salvation? The claim has been put forward that this is the decisive question facing the church today.
Who is Jesus Christ? is the central issue facing the church today, or so I have claimed in the last four columns of this series titled "An Apology," "A Testimony," "Confession" and "Life." This claim has been related to Scripture, the gospel and the Christian life. This final part relates the claim to the issues that so deeply divide the church today and whose resolution seems nowhere to be in sight.
In the Oct. 9 issue the claim was made that Christology is the most important issue facing today's church. In the Oct. 16 issue a companion claim was made that our understanding of the authority of Scripture and its role in the life of the Christian community is critical since it is primarily through Scripture, aided by the inward testimony of the Holy Spirit, that we know who Jesus is for us and the world.
Marrying, as I did, a gorgeous redhead (there being no other kind) includes automatic induction into the League of Timid Men.This explains why I did not object when my lady wife announced that she was going to learn to ski so she could join our grown children on the snowy mountains.Actually, I was delighted to hear this decision since she had been contemplating learning to hang glide.
The PC(USA) General Assembly has declared July 2000-June 2001 the "Year of the Child." By a happy providence, this All Hallows Eve, Oct. 31, is also the 50th anniversary of the United Nation's International Children's Emergency Fund's "Trick-or-Treat" program.
Present at this year's General Assembly of the Church of Scotland was Roy Sanderson, our oldest surviving General Assembly moderator. When I asked this sprightly 93-year-old what he was doing these days, he told me he was taking a computer class at a college in East Lothian. I was full of admiration.