Yes, yes, I know it's my bride's birthday today and I do, indeed, intend to celebrate that. She was born into a Congregationalist family, later became an Episcopalian and today is a Presbyterian with an Anglican heart, so I think of her as an Episcoterian.
But today also is the birthday of three Christian theologians about whom you would do well to know if you don't already.
We'll go oldest to youngest, though all now are dead.
* Francis Asbury (depicted here) was born on this date in 1745. He was a pioneer American Methodist bishop, though born in England. John Wesley appointed him in 1771 to be a missionary to the land that would become the United States a few years later. When the Methodist church in America became a separate organization in 1784, Asbury and Thomas Coke were ordained its first two bishops. He rode by horseback all over the place, right up to the day of his death in 1816, as he oversaw the churches under his purview. Good thing he never married because his annual salary was just $64.
* Rudolf Bultmann (pictured here) was born on this date in 1884. He was a German Lutheran New Testament scholar who is given credit (or blame, if you hate the idea) for helping to create "form criticism" of the New Testament. The idea behind this is that various oral traditions eventually got collected into the written gospels, and it's useful to try to understand those various traditions and how they came together. Bultmann also was an advocate of understanding and replacing old metaphors in scripture with more modern images so the gospel could be more fully understood by today's readers. Scriptural literalists blame form criticism or "higher criticism," as the approach sometimes is called, for encouraging people to discount the truths of the biblical stories.
* Paul Tillich (pictured here) was born on this date in 1886. He, too, was a German Lutheran, but as Hitler came to power in his native land, Tillich came to the U.S., where he taught at Union Theological Seminary in New York (as well as Harvard and the University of Chicago) until his death in 1965. Tillich is most known for his terminology for God, which is the "Ground of Being." He, too, has had numerous evanglical critics, especially for what they consider his pantheistic views of God.
(And just for the record, my bride looks nothing like any of these three guys.)
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PUBLIC POLICY AND MORALITY
President Obama yesterday spoke with a collection of religious leaders who are sympathetic to his efforts to reform health care in America, saying it's a moral obligation. I'm going to have to find a good history of the 1930s legislation that created Social Security to see if politicians cast the debate in moral terms. I agree with the characterization, though that doesn't obligate me to agree with the specifics of what's been proposed.
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NOTE: Until Monday, Aug. 24, my Internet access may be sporadic or even non-existent for hours at a time or even longer. So it may take longer than usual to get your comments posted. Thanks for your patience. Bill