Nov. 21, 2006
Nov. 23, 2006

Nov. 22, 2006


Pope Benedict XVI has written his first book as pontiff. No, it will be called Jesus of Nazareth, not Really, Some of My Best Friends Are Muslims. It's due out in the spring and is meant to be the first of two volumes on Christ. Will you buy it?

* * *


OK, here's another example of why theological debates sometimes are so fascinating to me.

Elca_2The Evangelical Luthern Church in America's Church Council (in effect, the denomination's board of directors and legislative body) just adopted a "Lutheran-Orthodox Common Statement on Faith in the Holy Trinity." For the full joint statement, click here.

What we have here is a 21st century development in an argument that finally goes back to the Council of Nicea in 325 C.E., but more to the point, to an idea pushed by Ambrose, a 4th century bishop who was one of the great theologians of the Western church.

Ambrose looked at the Nicene Creed's affirmation that the Holy Spirit "proceeds from the Father," and suggested that the creed should say the Spirit "proceeds from the Father and the Son." The phrase "and the Son" was labeled the "Filioque," using a Latin term.

Well, the Western church went along with Ambrose, though it took time for the additional phrase to become the common way of saying the creed. In his book, Reclaiming Our Roots, Mark Ellingsen says the "alteration of the creed probably. . .was brought during the reign of Charlemagne (742-814) to France. . .When some Frankish monks visited the East and recited the amended version of the creed, it touched off a huge controversy."

The Eastern church thought the addition to the creed was heretical. It tended to deny the equality of the three persons of the Holy Trinity, they said, and tended to give the Son more power. (I personally think the Eastern argument makes a lot of sense.)

But the Western church wanted it in to help combat the late 8th Century controversy about whether Jesus was the "adopted" Son of God. Ellingsen puts it this way: "If the Spirit proceeded from the Son, the Son must not have been adopted but rather had been God in eternity."

Well, in 1054, East and West broke apart into the Eastern Orthodox churches and the Roman Catholic church, and each took with it its version of the Nicene Creed. Indeed, one of the major points of division was the Filioque.

For some years now, there's been a Lutheran-Orthodox dialogue. Out of those discussions came a 1998 statement in which Lutherans, who use the Filioque phrase, said it was "appropriate" to say the Nicene Creed without it. In other words, Lutherans were saying that the Orthodox churches were doing nothing wrong or heretical by leaving out the Filioque.

So a controversy that has been stirring for nearly 1,700 years -- or at least more than 1,000, depending on how you date things -- has found a partial resolution between two major players.

All of which tells me that maybe a few hundreds years down the road the Protestant-Catholic split or the Catholic-Orthodox split (which the pope will talk about in Turkey later this month with the top Orthodox leader) eventually can be healed.

Perhaps this spirit of harmony might even proceed from the Father and the Son. Or not.

To read my latest Kansas City Star work, click here.

P.S.: How will many American Muslims be celebrating Thanksgiving tomorrow? Click here for one answer.


Mary Behr

I won't have to buy the Pope's new book. My son will do that for me. :) (I enjoyed some of the books he wrote before becomming Pope.) I'm surprised he has time to write now. I don't expect the rest of you to buy the new one. And if any of you feel the need to take pot shots, I will try not to let it hurt my feelings. Happy Thanksgiving to you all. In this marvelously divergent group, surely all will find SOMETHING to be thankful for--whatever one's belief or non- belief. (Can you use a preposition at the end of a phrase? I love Churchill's remark on that, too) I'm not taking my laptop to the family gathering near San Diego so I won't get to read today's comments till the weekend.


Happy Thanksgiving, Mary. And Happy Thanksgiving to all of you fellow bloggers! Among other things, I'll be thankful for the great conversations I've found here.

Spend an hour listening to "This American Life" on NPR. This weeks story is that of Reverend Carlton Pearson, an evangelical pastor in Tulsa, Oklahoma. His church, Higher Dimensions, was once one of the biggest in the city, drawing crowds of 5,000 people every Sunday. But several years ago, scandal engulfed the Reverend, he was denounced by almost all his former supporters, and today his congregation is just a few hundred people. He didn't have an affair. He didn't embezzle lots of money. His sin was something that to a lot of people is far worse ... he stopped believing in hell.

Go to Half way down the home page, you'll find buttons to stream or download it.


Random thought: How fortunate we are that the Indians took a Christian attitude toward the Pilgrims. The Pilgrims and later European followers, on the other hand, took a capitalist attitude toward the Indians. (I know I should say "Native Americans.")

What if Native Americans had taken the cultural purity attitudes often heard in today's immigration debate? Well, some tribes did, although Europeans had better weapons, which tended to make the outcome predictable but bloody.

I guess history does repeat (click) repeat (click) repeat itself.

Dave Miller

Bill, thanks for noticing the Orthodox-Lutheran statement. The history of Lutheran-Orthodox relations is fascinating. (Well, to me anyway.) Constantinople fell in 1453, shortly before Luther's birth in 1483. It is easy to see how the reformers could have made the assumption that the Church also went under...that the Orthodox Church was no longer viable. Except for that, they might have made contact with the Eastern Church much sooner, since reformation documents portray a very favorable image of the Eastern Church. After all, everything the Lutherans were protesting in the Western Church didn't exist in the East: no indulgences, no Pope, etc.

But it took until 1559 for Luther's sidekick, Philipp Melanchon, to make contact with the Ecumenical Patriarch in Constantinople (now Istanbul). By then Luther had died and the reformation was well underway. The opportunity for it to be significantly shaped by contact with the East was gone.

This is all outlined in a very interesting book about the Lutheran-Orthodox dialog entitled "Heaven on Earth," published in 1996.

Yes, the "filioque" may seem trivial to us in the West...but I believe the Orthodox have it right. Not adding the filioque also preserves the "parenthood" of the First Person of the Trinity. Everything "proceeds from" the Father. This is lost if the Spirit proceeds "from the Father and the Son."

But these are finer points to non-Trinitarians, no doubt. I hope they can excuse us Trinitarians for a moment while we talk amongst ourselves.

Kansas Bob

Wanted you to know that I am thankful for you Bill (

Joe Barone

Will I read the Pope's book? No.


The other day, we were talking about Israel as a secular and/or religious state. As in the U.S., the place and rights of GLBTs is a current issue. And as in the U.S., it tends to split across liberal/ conservative lines, both politically and religiously. The L.A. Times reports at


"And if any of you feel the need to take pot shots, I will try not to let it hurt my feelings. "

You would be the last one that I would take pot shots at, Mary. There are plenty of turkeys on this blog to scatter salvos at.
: ) Happy Thanksgiving!

(Is everyone groaning? I hope you're groaning. Note you got the bonus of a preposition at the end of a sentence.)

I will not be buying the Pope's book. It has nothing to do with its merits. I put myself on a book diet a couple of years ago when piles of them began attacking from all the rooms of my house. It's the library for me, unless there's something that I just MUST decorate with pencil marks.
Here's another vote for the Easterners having it right. I get very uncomfortable with denominations that seem to make everything Jesus-centric. It doesn't merely occur to me as wrong according to Biblical interpretation; I think it contributes to the divide between Christianity and other religions that have a strong God but no Jesus.

So my question is: Does the acceptance of the Eastern interpretation impact the average Lutheran(I mean can Western churches actually adopt the Eastern interpretation?) Or is this simply important to interfaith dialogues and politics?
Thank you for the article on the Muslim Thanksgiving, Bill. I never considered the problem of a halal turkey.

I took a "servers' poll" at my fav Vietnamese restaurant yesterday and got turned up noses at turkey. They are doing ribs, crab, and steak on the grill. But still celebrating the day.
Very nice homage to Bill, KansasBob. I am grateful for your labors, too. Thank you, Bill.

Dolores Lear

I am also thankful for Bill and all of you. Happy Thanksgiving.

Will get the Pope's book at the Library. Will get on the list today.

Hope the LCA gets a new slant on the Trinity of Christianity, and makes the Trinity God the One GOD.

I do not accept the Trinity as GOD and had to leave the LCMS after this information happened to me.

The One GOD of the Universe is not the Man Gods of religion and myth that I once believed in. Now I can question the three 'persons' in One, Literally, and not feel that I am a heretic, as many have thought.

The Holy Spirit is not a 'person' for me, it is the EMF of the Source of Life. And Jesus is the Messiah/Christ and is my Brother, not GOD.

Only Christians had to accept this Trinity as Truth, when we did not have High Tech Science to re-look at all the 'supernatural' religious teachings and myth. Look at all the misunderstandings this caused, and is still causing today.

The trinity I accept is the Source of Life, the Atom and the Electro-Magnetic Force, that makes All visible Life as we know it. This GOD also makes the invisible elements that we confess in the Creeds of Christianity.

The big step to understanding, is accepting that Earth is a spaceship and we are the Crew. It is up to the Crew if they will Share or fight over the resources that are necessary for Life as we know it.

It is Mans fault that we kill our Brothers/Sisters over 'things' and different beliefs. It is not GODs fault. GOD has no favorites.

I have stated this 'fault' many times, and hope it can also be accepted as 'literal'.

It is Time to know the difference between GOD and God, and Unite as One Family Crew on Spaceship Earth. We are all Brother/Sister Humans, and we can Have Peace and Eternal Physical Pure-bred Life on Earth for All the Crew, like Jesus has also.

Jesus does have an Asexual Eternal Pure-bred Physical Body, and will return in this same body when he and our HTA return to Save those that remain at Judgement Day, not only Christians.

Peace and Jesus' Asexual Agape Love.


Jesus does tell the Apostles that he will send them "a paraclete." explains this much better than I can. In this context, saying that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son makes sense.

Dave Miller

Jesus does tell the Apostles that he will send them "a paraclete."

Well sure, Jeff. No one in the East or West would dispute this. But what the Creed is referring to is "procession from all eternity." The "sending" you're speaking of there is a sending "in history" or "within time." (I was confused about this too, when I first started looking into this.)

You might be interested to know that West and East (Catholicism and Orthodoxy) also have an ongoing dialog. I've had some email correspondence with one of the Vatican staffers, Fr. Ron Roberson, who lives here in the U.S. He tells me that, after six years of discussion, West and East are now also coming to an agreement about this.

That should be a piece of cake, since the Nicene Creed was established by ecumenical councils which included both West and East...without the "filioque," which as Bill said was added later by the West, independently.


"I get very uncomfortable with denominations that seem to make everything Jesus-centric. It doesn't merely occur to me as wrong according to Biblical interpretation; I think it contributes to the divide between Christianity and other religions that have a strong God but no Jesus."

"You yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

For it stands in scripture: "Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame."

So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, "The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone," and "A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense." They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do."
1 Peter 2: 5-8

It's impossible to be too Jesus-centric. A person can only glorify and worhsip God the Father by glorifying the Son. Where there is no worship of the Son, there is no worship of the Father.


Ron, all I can say is "Happy Thanksgiving!"

Dave Miller

"It's impossible to be too Jesus-centric."

Ron,where Christians are concerned, I gotta agree with you on this.

Yes, this makes us distinct from non-Christians. That's why I believe we need to be engaged in dialog. (As a Christian, I see this as what Jesus would do! :-)

Dolores Lear

To me our HTA are the 'Father' of Life on Earth, who started Pure-bred Physical Life on Earth. When we Colonize a planet we will be the the 'Father' of that Life.

Jesus is with the 'Father', physically. He is not a Spirit 'Being', nor are our HTA. The Man Gods and Angels were Human, not Spirits. Man was spirited about in their UFOs.

They are High Tech Birth Human Beings with Eternal Physical Life. This makes them Higher Human 'Beings' than Body Birth Lower Human 'Beings' on Earth.

Think how our Planet would be today, if Man served our Eco System with Balanced High Tech Science, and treated our Brothers/Sisters as Equal Human Beings.

Add to that Eternal Pure-bred Physical Life. This is what the Heaven of religion is like.

Let there be Peace on Earth and let it begin with the Knowledge of Eternal Pure-bred High Tech Science Human 'Beings'.

There is a 'Literal' High Tech Lifestyle for Humans, it is not supernatural.

Peace and Jesus' Asexual Agape Love.


Keith, Happy Thanksgiving to you, and everyone else, too!


Dave, thanks. I don't say these things to be hateful and unloving. But, it is what Christians believe, teach and confess. Interfaith dialogue can't be just a watering down of everyone's beliefs until some sort of common ground is found, can it?

I've learend a lot from Keith, Patricia, JT, Openmind and others about other belief systems. In this respect, I enjoy and appreciate the value interfaith dialogue.

Thanks, everyone.

Dave Miller

"Interfaith dialogue can't be just a watering down of everyone's beliefs until some sort of common ground is found, can it?"

No, Ron. You seem to be catching on to what "dialog" is. I see it as a respectful enounter between faiths, in which each participant is willing to risk being changed in some way by the encounter.

The notion that dialog involves "a watering down of everyone's beliefs until some sort of common ground is found" is a straw man, with which advocates of dialog would disagree.

Happy Thanksgiving to you, too!

Just Thinking

Interesting dialog.
Happy Thanksgiving.

Dave Miller

"Interesting dialog."

Interesting comment. Ron asked me a question, and I responded to it. Is this you paying me back, JT, hmmmm?

Happy T-day to you, too.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)