'tis a gift to be simple: 8-31-10
August 31, 2010
If you are Christian, what comes to mind when I ask you to think of a famous but simple children's hymn? My guess: "Jesus Loves Me."
Well, today is a good day to think about that old hymn because the woman who wrote the words to it (a poem eventually set to music) was born on this date in 1820. She's Anna Bartlett Warner (pictured here), born on Long Island, the daughter of a prominent New York lawyer. For an even better online biography of her, click here.
There's a story told about the great 20th Century theologian, Karth Barth, and Warner's hymn words. I've often thought the story apocryphal, but on page 4 of this site, the story is reported as true and told by the late Reformed theologian and pastor J.M. Boice this way:
Several years before his death, the Swiss theologian Karl Barth came to the
“Jesus loves me! This I know
For the Bible tells me so.”
I've always liked that story. And whether it's historically accurate or not, I judge it to be true.
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A RELIGIOUS COURT FIGHT IN EGYPT
The complications of religion are multiple in Egypt, a predominantly Muslim country with a Coptic Christian minority. Now there's legal action over the reported conversion of a Christian priest's wife to Islam, and it involves both the Coptic pope and Egypt's strongman president, Hosni Mubarak. The facts in this case seem hard to nail down, so it's wise to wait to make any judgment. But given the way in which the government has oppressed the Coptic Church for years, it's hard not to have some sympathy for that side in this matter.
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THE BOOK CORNER
Reborn to Be Wild: Reviving Our Radical Pursuit of Jesus, by Ed Underwood. The author, a 60ish former "Jesus freak," is nostalgic for the 1960s and '70s, when the so-called "Jesus Movement" set some young hearts astir. This book is a call to regain the kind of enthusiasm for being a Christ follower that he remembers experiencing then. It's a book clearly aimed at people who think of themselves as evangelical but it seems somehow divorced from the energy that has been brought by the Emergent Church Movement. Rather, this strikes me as a call back to some of the narrowness that the Emergent Church Movement has tried to get beyond. For instance, Underwood places much emphasis on John 14:6, in which Jesus is quoted as saying that "no one comes to the Father except through me." This verse often has been used to promote a kind of exclusivism that no doubt would have been foreign to Jesus himself. And that's what Underwood seems to long for -- a message that would suggest that only Underwood's version of Christianity is right or makes any sense. This is a message of personal salvation with little space for the idea of being part of a larger, covenant community or the idea that God intends to redeem the whole creation, not just individuals. I like the enthusiasm the author expresses for being radically committed to following Jesus. What I find troubling is the notion that if others don't buy this they have no hope. I think there's a more welcoming way to introduce people to Jesus.