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Reformation Sermon at Christ Lutheran in El Cerrito, California

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Reformation Sunday, October 28th 2012

Christ Lutheran Church in El Cerrito, California

The Continuing Reformation

Pastor Sharon Lubkeman: Peter, we are honored to have a Luther scholar like yourself in our midst today.  Would you entertain some questions from us?   In all your studies of Luther, what is something you find surprising?

*Martin Luther was very radical in his day and we have domesticated him and made him a jolly-good fellow, just like one of us. Ah, but he wasn’t. He stood up for his free conscience to serve Christ in truth even before the Emperor and the Pope.

When Luther was excommunicated by Pope Leo X and declared an outlaw by Emperor Charles V – that meant he was as free as a bird for anyone to kill, the people who followed him no longer dared to call themselves Martinists or Lutherans. His name had become too dangerous. They now called themselves New Believers as opposed to Old Believers.

Luther was no paragon of virtue and he did not pretend to be. He did not want followers to name themselves Lutherans after him. He said,

“people [should] call themselves not Lutherans, but Christians. Who is this Luther? My teaching is not my own, nor have I been crucified for anyone. Why should it happen to me, miserable stinking bag of worms that I am, that the children of Christ should be called by my insignificant name? I am not anybody’s master, nor do I wish to be. With the one church I have in common the teaching of Christ who alone is our master.”[1]

In one place he comically referred to himself as mouse dirt mingled with pepper. He had a real sense of humor.[2]

Pr. Sharon: He was definitely a man of great courage and conviction.  How did Martin Luther define faith?

In his Commentary on Romans Luther himself writes:

“Faith is a divine work in us. It changes us and makes us to be born anew of God (John 1). It kills the old Adam [and Eve] and makes altogether different people, in heart and spirit and mind and powers, and it brings with it the Holy Spirit.

Oh, it is a living, busy, active, mighty thing, this faith. And so it is impossible for it not to do good works incessantly. It does not ask whether there are good works to do, but before the question rises, it has already done them, and is always at the doing of them.

Faith is a living, daring confidence in God’s grace, so sure and certain that a [person] would stake his [or her] life on it a thousand times. This confidence in God’s grace and knowledge of it makes [people] glad and bold and happy in dealing with God and all [God’s] creatures.

And this is the work of the Holy Spirit in faith. Hence a [person] is ready and glad, without compulsion, to do good to everyone, to serve everyone, to suffer everything, in love and praise to God, who has shown him this grace[,who has shown her this grace].”[3]

Pr. Sharon: How did Luther separate works from faith?

“[He said] it is as impossible as to separate burning and shining from fire. Beware, therefore, of your own false notions and of the idle talkers, who would be wise enough to make decisions about faith and good works, and yet are the greatest fools.

Therefore, pray to God to work faith in you. Else you will remain forever without faith, whatever you think or do.”[3]

Yes faith “is a living, busy, active, mighty thing.” According to Luther it is a solid trust in God that allows God to work through us. “Faith is a living, daring confidence in God’s grace.”

Pr. Sharon: Could you talk about how that confidence in God’s grace related to his understanding of justice?

We Lutherans today are not out front on justice issues, not like the Quakers have been or the Unitarians even. I thought that perhaps it was because Luther wrote about two kinds of righteousness that perhaps divided it and allowed our concern for justice to be overcome. I reread his pamphlet under the title of that name and found just the opposite. He argued that the spiritual righteousness of Christ in us was the source of our hunger and thirst for justice in our lives. Spiritual freedom is not an alternative to social, political, and outward freedom, but its source in the freedom from sin as well as freedom for love and service of our neighbor.

In “Two Kinds of Righteousness” Luther wrote,

“Through faith in Christ, therefore Christ’s righteousness becomes our righteousness and all that [Christ] has becomes ours; or rather, [Christ] himself becomes ours.”[4]

Yes, the righteousness shall live by faith. The just shall live by faith. The righteousness of Christ

“is an infinite righteousness and one that swallows up all sins in a moment, for it is impossible that sin should exist in Christ; on the contrary, [a person] who trusts in Christ exists in Christ; he [or she] is one with Christ, having the same righteousness as {Christ]. It is impossible that sin should remain [in such a person]. This righteousness is primary; it is the basis, the cause, the source of all our own actual righteousness.”[5]

Luther always has justice proceed from Christian love. Faith becomes active in love and love seeks justice,[6] love hungers and thirsts for justice. Righteousness and justice was not separated in those days. Today righteousness usually revolves around personal and individual morality, which is very important, but justice and fairness involved in the systems we live in, is crucial as well.

Luther was very much a Christ-figure and Christ worked through him. But he had many failings and he was the first to say: “Follow Christ and his teachings, because you will be able to find real faults in me.”

Pr. Sharon: We certainly all have our faults. As a faith community how is it we can continue to reform?

The church always has to be ready to continue reforming itself in head and members. That goes for our Lutheran church, too. Because of the Internet, we stand in a very opportune place in that regard.  Maybe the invention of the Internet will provide the possibility of another wonderful Christian renewal as the invention of the printing press was crucial for the great Reformation. Also the great Orthodox and Catholic schism took place in 1054 and the Protestant Reformation took place in 1517. If a great renewal in the church happens every five hundred years, then we are due for another big one after the second millennium. We are now celebrating the Luther Decade, because 2017 will mark the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation.

You can see that we need another reformation of the church and you can see that you and I like Luther before us, have to take a deeper commitment to Jesus Christ our Lord, because that will ensure that we are on the way, full of truth, to a life pleasing to God. Yes, the just shall live by their faith and faith is a living, busy, active and mighty thing. It makes us come alive to God and die to sin. Yes, faith is a living, daring confidence in God’s grace, upon which we stake our lives, put our bodies on the line. It makes us glad and bold and happy before God and all God’s creatures, rejoicing even in the faith that brings social, political, and even environmental renewal! Amen.

Some quotations: Gottes Wort und Luther Lehr vergehet neimals und nimmer mehr. (God’s Word and Luther’s teaching will never ever pass away.)

Luther wrote in a letter, when he was turning from Aristotle’s philosophy to theology, that he meant a theology that searches out the meat of the nut, the kernel of the grain, and the marrow of the bone.”[7]

A note that was not preached: In throwing the canon law into the flames on December 10th 1520, Luther undermined and disqualified two ecclesiastical judicial systems, thee old arch-diaconal and the episcopal courts, as well as a great many canon lawyers and church legislation involved in the benefice system. The concept of receiving a salary for professional services began with the officiale, the judge of the episcopal court. The cardinals or archbishops, for example, would own and receive the income in tithes of a cathedral, several churches, and a string of monasteries in his “portfolio.” Because he could have no heir, the pope sold these benefices over and over again.

N.B. This was a twelve page sermon, from which all the historical material was taken out, so that it was reduced to five pages.


[1] Diana Griffith, Martin Luther in 3-D,  http://synodresourcecenter.org/wma/worship/sermons/drama/0007/luther_3d.html

[2] Philip and Peter Krey, Luther’s Spirituality, (New York: Paulist Press, 2007), p. 123.

[3] Martin Luther, Commentary on Romans, Trans. J. Theodore Mueller (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1954), xvii.

[5] Timothy Lull, ed., Martin Luther’s Basic Theological Writings, (Minneaplis: Fortress Press, 1989), p. 156.

[5] Ibid.

[6] William H. Lazareth, A Theology of Politics: Christian Social Responsibility, (New York: Board of Social Ministry, 1965), p. 20. In this place Lazareth writes: “[The Lutheran] concentration on the gospel has energized a sound evangelical personal ethic: ‘faith active in love.’ But the whole vast realm of corporate structures and institutional life has thereby been deprived of the normative judgment and guidance of God’s law by the church’s neglect of any corresponding social ethic: ‘love seeking justice.’ Though responsible for the proclamation of the whole Word of God, Lutherans have been traditionally much stronger on the personal appropriation of the gospel (for politicians and statesmen) than on social demands of the law (for politics and the state). What is desperately needed today is a prophetic counterpart to the priesthood of all believers.”

[7] Preserved Smith, editor and translator, Luther’s Correspondence and other Contemporary Letters: Vol. I (1507-1521). (Philadelphia: the Lutheran Publication Society, 1913), p.24.

Written by peterkrey

October 30, 2012 at 11:54 pm

Giants Win the World Series: Some Baseball Theology

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Blogging my thoughts:

Did you notice the gift that the Phillies gave the Giants with Hunter Pence? He gave all the Giants incredible spirit with his inspirational speeches. He told them to forget themselves and just play for the team and each other.

The Tiger’s manager, Jim Leyland, told his team to “forget the Detroit Tigers, represent yourself first and how you want to be perceived.” With that he pointed to individualism.

Now think of Sandoval, the Panda; Buster Posey, the comeback kid; Pagan, the Pagan angel;  Brutus, the Blackbeard, Brian Wilson; his mean protégé, the whirling dervish, Romo; the clutch hitter Scutaro, who stands at the plate wondering what his bat is for, like Tim Lyncecum; the golden gloved Crawford and Blanco; with Hunter Pense, swinging his crazy choked-up bat at anything.

The Giants are all a bunch of characters, because true unity differentiates, while individualism produces uniform mediocrity and even failure.

I’ve always loved Teilhard de Chardin’s “True unity differentiates it does not confound.” He thought that it was a false alternative to play the individual off against the group. True unity produces real and unique individuals as well as wonderful community. This unity has to be internal. Uniformity is external, forcing everybody to be the same and who knows where their hearts are.

There’s a little baseball theology!

A Sermon on Marriage: Becoming Nothing for God to Make Something of Us

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Shepherd by the Sea –

October 7, 2012- The Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Gen 2:18-24 Psalm 8 Hebrews 1:1-4, 2: 5-12 Mark 10:2-16

Marriage

Becoming Nothing for God to Make Something of Us.

It is so good to be preaching God’s Word for you again this morning. Let me begin by making some observations about our lessons. They are obviously about marriage, and the beautiful Psalm 8 is also one of them. Out of the mouths of babes and children come the praises that build a bulwark, to use an old translation, for the heavenly kingdom that we can only enter as children. When I took a course on the Psalms with Prof. Norman Gottwald, he translated “the fish and creatures that swim in the paths of the sea, as those that migrate through the sea, because we know that like the birds, whales and other fish migrate through the oceans. That course on the Psalms inspired me to write a paper on the way a Psalm can open up for a distressed person and become a healing experience. Many Psalms shift from lamentation to praise, when the Psalmist feels heard by God, which makes all the difference and then like the Psalmist, the reader of the Psalm starts out on a new life thereafter. Thus I believe Psalms are very therapeutic. The paper is called Psalm Therapy.

What everyone hears in these lessons is of course the big “no” to divorce. We have to try to deal with that. Let me quote an online commentary by Brian Stoffregen:

When we ask, “What does the Bible say about divorce?” we come up with a number of different answers. (he writes)

  • Moses says that you can divorce a wife (Dt 24:1)
  • Paul says that divorce is permitted in some instances — when an unbelieving partner requests it (1 Cor 7:15).
  • Jesus says that you can’t separate what has become one (Mk 10:8-9)
  • In Ezra, it is the sign of a good husband to divorce his foreign (unbelieving) wife (Ezra 10:2-3, 44).
  • Paul says that it is the sign of a good spouse not to divorce his or her unbelieving mate (1 Cor 7:12-13).
  • Joseph, a “righteous man,” felt that it was his duty to divorce Mary (because he thought she had been unfaithful to him) (Matt 1:19).

Stoffregen continues:

Divorce is not God’s intentions for marriage; but, because of human sinfulness it happens, and we need divorce laws for protection. (Divorce is probably better than murder <g>). Divorced (and remarried) people are sinners, but so are all of us. Jesus refused to condemn and punish the one who had been caught in adultery. I believe that that same grace and mercy is extended to all of us sinners — even those who have been through divorce and remarriage. How much more does someone whose life has publicly been torn apart need the comfort and love and acceptance from a community?[1]

We have come a long way, since divorced people had to deal with rejection from the community. A pastor going through a divorce used to have to demit the ministry. Today, even some bishops of our church are divorced. I have always used Luther’s observation that Jesus was not a law-giver like Moses. So what he says here about marriage and divorce should not be considered law but gospel. He invites us into the wonderful arrangement of marriage and alludes to Adam and Eve and the paradise marriage can represent, when God is walking through the garden with us.

But God made us a little lower than the angels. Psalm 8 really says that we were made just a little lower than God. But then in the last days, God has spoken to us through a Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who knows how to fill us with grace, a grace that softens our hard-hearts and makes us into human beings. A pastor in Berlin used to say, “In marriage a husband and wife can push and pull each other into heaven.”

But we have to always consider our expectations, which can be way too high. God did everything for us and no husband or wife can do that, not a wife for the husband nor a husband for a wife. We have to let God be God, so we cannot expect our partners to be the world for us and we should not expect that of ourselves. We are limited creatures. We are sinners standing in the need of prayer, standing in the need of mercy. And we have to cling to God like children and be faithful to God’s Christ, Jesus, and trust him like children. Then we will discover “what eye has not seen nor ear heard nor our hearts been able to conceive the wonderful marriage that God can give those who believe, who are called to his purpose.” This marriage exceeds our greatest expectations and does not come by our own efforts and strength, but out of the mercy and grace of God that is new every morning.

People trying to be God, usually turn into devils. Pascal said, “Qui veut fair l’ange fait la Bête.” That means “those who try to be angels become beasts.” If we try to be more than human we become less than human. And sexuality is very much part of being a human being. Although some have to keep it dormant and other have little trouble doing so, marriage is really a God-given way for us to find delight in another person – from their very spiritual nature, like a marriage of minds, to the most physical and sexual intimacy and love that we share. In the text that we had in our pastors’ Bible study, there was one more verse that is not included in this Celebrate: And Adam and Eve, that is, “the man and his wife were both naked and [they] were not ashamed.” That’s paradise! Of course, we recognize the patriarchal and sexist language, because it should say the man and woman or husband and wife, not the person of the man but only the role of the woman. We pastors used to always pronounce married couples “man and wife,” but we should say “husband and wife” for the sake of equality.

But Adam delights in Eve as a gift of God and exclaims, “At last bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh. This one shall be called “woman” for out of the man this one was taken.” She was taken out of man’s side, so she does not belong to the man, but the man and woman belong with each other, side by side.

It says that Eve was taken out of Adam, the woman out of the man. Of course it is really the other way around: physically the man was taken out of the womb of the woman when he was born. I wonder what happened spiritually? How did a human being first become reborn as a real self, a person? Men provide abstraction while women by nature, even spiritually tend to be more practical and concrete. The mother endured the physical birth and spiritual birth came after. In our patriarchal past, men have prevented women from coming to themselves in their full spiritual stature, as if they were the source of rebirth, but God is. Rebirth takes place by the grace and love of God.

In our Gospel lesson we can see how Jesus is stepping in for the women and children, because basically men treated women like children, who were without status, or worse, they treated women like their property, like slaves. That is why Jesus steps in for them. Being baptized, by the grace of God, we drown and die to our old selves and are raised up in new selves, who walk and live by the Spirit of God. We who follow Jesus become like nothing, so that by the grace of God, God can make something out of us. God takes you and me, who are nobody and makes us somebody. Christ has always been making women somebodies, too in spite of their oppression by men.

According to Luther,

A Christian person is a free sovereign over all things, subject to no one [because of faith].

A Christian person is a dutiful servant, subject to everyone [because of love].

But that has to be mutual and apply to both men and women and not be a one way street!

But the men, who have not undergone living out of the strength and grace of God, live by what they have. They live out of power and wealth and want women to be their slaves. These Pharisees were like that. Always wary of those who threatened their control over power and wealth, they put Jesus to the test and even the disciples wanted to prevent the sick and vulnerable children from approaching Jesus, because greatness meant that a man had nothing to do with children.

First of all, the Pharisees were probably not even interested in the Biblical teaching about divorce. Herod had just divorced his wife, a Nabatian princess, in order to marry his brother’s wife, Herodias. John came right out against this divorce and Herod handed his new wife John’s head on a platter. The Pharisees probably wanted Jesus to hang himself the same way by coming out against Herod.

But in his response, Jesus steps out of the legalities of marriage, and alludes to the creation and the marvelous goodness of a man and a woman becoming one; or two persons in a same sex marriage becoming one flesh and one body. It is not good for us to be alone, and marriage is a wonderful gift that even a life time is all too short to fully receive.

That is because it is filled with the joy and fulfillment of Holy Communion, the way the Church has become the Bride of Christ. This Holy Communion makes such a divine love possible, that from this marriage children are born into this world. In our spiritual communion, the children of God are born out of the love of God, through the body and blood of Jesus. Sexual love in marriage brings physical children. The new birth of the children of God takes place in the virginal and celibate dimension of Holy Communion.

The trouble throughout history has been, that just like these Pharisees trying to get Jesus killed, men have wanted to be like Gods and control all the power and wealth or otherwise, they used the little of it they had, to grind women into the ground. How do you control a woman? Keep her barefoot and pregnant. That was their strategy. And a real man kept himself aloof from children. You’ll lose your manhood, they said, if you relate to children and have too much to do with them. That’s why the disciples tried to keep the children away from Jesus. We’ve come a long way, but ask yourself, how many Kindergarten teachers are men? [A woman in the congregation knew about two men, who taught kindergarten. But they still remain exceptions.]

Like the children women also had no rights. They were merely considered the property of men and handing a woman a certificate of divorce, was considered an insult to her father; she did not even count. If a man found his wife – again only considered a role and not a person, objectionable, he could divorce her, but she did not have the right to divorce him. The school of Rabbi Shammai restricted the objection to unchastity, but theirs was a minority position. The school of Rabbi Hillel held that the offense could be a spoiled meal, or if they did not accept their husband’s control, or even if he found another wife fairer than she!

You can see how Jesus is stepping in for the women and children in his response. He lifts the woman up and gives her the same rights as the man, and the man, whose wife did not count, so he could live by a double standard, had to hear that he was committing adultery against his wife, not against her father, but against her. And meanwhile Jesus says that we all have to become like these children in order for us to get into the kingdom of heaven. That is not over there, over yonder, but a paradise right here in the quality of our relationships in our marriage on earth, that Garden of Eden, with Adam and Eve, and the wonderful love, faith, hope, and fulfillment, that we already receive glimpse of here and now. We can get a foretaste of heaven. We can’t get the full feature presentation, of course, but God gives us a preview of coming attractions.

It is so sad how our hard-hearts prevent us from going through dying to ourselves and coming alive in God and for our wife, husband, child, neighbor, or even our enemy. In order to enter the kingdom, we need to give up power, status, and our sense of self importance. We die to ourselves so that our power, status, importance, and life can come from God.[2] We live, not by our own strength and effort, but out of the strength, grace, and love of God.

So we cannot expect our wife to die for us, if we can’t die for her. A woman cannot expect her husband to die for her, if she won’t die for him. Love is to die for! and it brings about a relationship made in heaven that brings Holy Communion to a couple, who have become children of God. The marriage, however, should not be predominantly need-based, but based on mutual love and Christian freedom. When a marriage is filled with abuse, being faithful might be a cowardly self-deception that makes a spouse an accomplice in the crime being committed against her – or him, there are rare times when a wife is abusive, too.

In emphasizing dying and being raised back up, I’m talking about a spiritual reality. The oneness in marriage requires that rebirth that makes us into the children who are ready to learn and grow and be that life-long lover of the other.

For example, my wife has laid down the law. Now I have to cook on Wednesdays and my son Josh has to cook on Tuesdays. Fridays are Burrito night. She has become the director of her clinic and she has a private practice, and she had to come home and clean and do all the cooking. She just said she was tired and stopped. Well, I have to lay my studies aside and fret and moan, “What can I cook?” But now I’ve already made macaroni and cheese, shepherd’s pie, and Josh and I cooked a wonderful salmon dinner for her just before she left for Florida – there to help her aging parents. For cooking I need the coaching of my son Joshua. But there you go, we have to be ready to change for the other. Everybody is different, of course. Some men love to cook. But me, it makes me feel like I’ll have to die.

As old as we are, God continues to give us grace filled with love and strength. We can become like children learning to do something for the love of the other that we thought was completely impossible.

Nora has been completely practical. Now having become a director, that is a short-coming and she has to read books about leadership and policy making and I really love discussing them with her. It’s so wonderful that we are sharing ideas together like never before. Me, I’m practically completely theoretical. But we are children of God and so are you and God is not finished with us yet. By God’s grace, we can always start learning and growing for each other again.

So Jesus was not a law-giver and sometimes because of our hard-heartedness we do have to get divorced and often that makes children have to suffer a great deal. The Gospel of Jesus Christ invites us into a marriage that becomes filled with grace and grows and grows from one level of mutual maturity to another. I could tell you about wonderful marriages that I have observed, marriages that were really made in heaven and blessed so many people. There are also marriages made in hell. But Jesus has died for us and a marriage, like a Psalm lifted up by the love of God can shift from fighting and lamentation into promises filled by praise. Amen.


[1] Brian Stoffregen’s exegetical Notes in CrossMarks: http://www.crossmarks.com/brian/mark10x2.htm

[2] This sentence paraphrases Brian Stoffregen’s exegetical notes in his online commentary in CrossMarks.

Written by peterkrey

October 27, 2012 at 7:48 pm

Blogging My Thoughts on Secular Humanism

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Blogging my thoughts: New York Times, Obituary Page, A 21,

“Paul Kurtz, 86, Humanist Publisher, Dies.”

I’d like to feature a few of his citations with some response. First from his Humanist Manifesto:

“Traditional dogmatic or authoritarian religions that place revelation, God, ritual or creed above human needs and experience do a disservice to the human species.”

Some religions are not traditionally dogmatic and authoritarian, but like other religious antagonists to knock down a straw man, he likes to classify all religions that way. Secondly, placing revelation and God above human needs is a peculiar way to think about God. God loves us and places our human needs in the divine forefront, loving us enough to send his only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to die for us. Thus God sets our needs above those of God’s own self. The Holy Spirit inspires us mutually to set the needs of others above our own as well.

Then concerning revelation, some scientists like Albert Einstein and Michael Polanyi, for example, would take issue with revelation as opposed to reason. Reason is instrumental, for the most part, like a tool that fails to have its own purpose within, but becomes used in a spirit and for a purpose external to itself. Revelation transcends reason, but can be verified or falsified by reason, except in the case of the Ultimate. Without revelation, reason and even the scientific method become lame. In a letter to the philosopher Eric Gutkind, Einstein in 1954 wrote, “Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.”

Einstein had his theory of relativity revealed to him long before scientific experiments could verify it. Michael Polanyi and Thomas Kuhn have shown that science has also distorted its history and its way of operation, because the latter includes revelation. Scientists have often excluded it, I submit, because of naturalism and materialism, which are dehumanizing faiths.

Further a theology can be experience-based, the way Martin Luther’s or Friedrich Schleiermacher’s is. Luther did not dethrone reason from being the queen in its own house, but maintained that it can go out of bounds when it gets between the believer and God, displaces faith and tries to take God’s place.

There is nothing wrong with the Manifesto’s arguing “for a system of world law that would transcend the limits of national sovereignty.” But everything is wrong and becomes a disservice to science and reason with the Manifesto’s best known dictum: “No deity will save us; we must save ourselves.” Human beings from time immemorial have known that the Transcendent has drawn them up into their real and full humanity and without transcendence they sink below themselves into an animal state that does discredit even to animals. God is the Transcendent, whose push and pull we experience toward our full humanity, which is a life lived for others, in mutual care and concern, not based on self-interest and saving ourselves.

The statement of warning from his “Secular Humanist Declaration” is observably true:

“’The reappearance of dogmatic authoritarian religions’ had become a threat to intellectual freedom, human rights, and scientific progress.’ The statement, signed by 61 scholars, directed its objections toward fundamentalist, literalist and doctrinaire Christianity; a rapidly growing and uncompromising Muslim clericalism in the Middle East and Asia; the reassertion of orthodox authority by the Roman Catholic papal hierarchy; nationalist religious Judaism; and the reversion of obscurantist religions in Asia.”

The accuracy of that statement is illustrated in the pseudo-science that some fundamentalists and literalists publish and teach, placing ultimate questions and beliefs on the same level as science, while science always has to remain open and vulnerable to new discoveries. On the other hand, the statement can also be illustrated by the scientism, in which such secular Humanists like Paul Kurtz are also complicit, when it goes out of bounds and makes pronouncements about the ultimate existence of God.

Just consider the latter citation once more in the light of Luther’s theology. Luther championed intellectual freedom and would not let the authority of the pope and emperor override his conscience and his reasoning at the 1521 Imperial Diet of Worms in Germany. He fought clericalism in declaring the priesthood of all believers, the way we have to fight secularism today, which often succumbs to nationalism and falls prey to dehumanizing naturalism and materialism. He deposed the papacy and its authoritarian hierarchy for a sound faith accessible to everyone having experienced being saved by grace.

Paul Kurtz must have sensed the problem of reason and Humanism which remains unguided by a sound faith in the Transcendent, when in his later years he resigned from the board of the Center of Inquiry saying, “Most of my colleagues are concerned with critiquing the concept of God. That is important, but equally important is, where do you turn?”

Perhaps he never heard the words of Jesus, “And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.” (John 12:32)

Written by peterkrey

October 24, 2012 at 9:12 pm

Blogging my thoughts: We Should All Share in the Sacrifice

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Blogging my thoughts:

Under Chinese, a Greek Port Thrives: An Overhaul in Piraeus May Be a Model of What Greece Must Aspire To.” (New York Times, Business Day, Thursday, Oct, 11, 2012, pages B1 and B7.)

Reading this article today made me realize that the Third World-ization of the Greek workers (and of course our own) was going on. The Greeks leased half of the Port of Piraeus to the Chinese and kept the other half for themselves. They sold the container freight business to the Chinese and they kept the other half, a third of which is more lucrative passenger traffic with the rest for containers. The state-run port which had been languishing has now seen its Chinese portion of the port flourish. They have hired 1,000 employees, while the Greek side has hired only 800. The Chinese company Cosco paid Greece $500 million for their half of the port and made a profit of $6.47 million on sales of $94.2 million, while plowing a great deal of their profit into the expansion of their side of the port, which will make it into one of the 20 largest container ports in the world. The Greek side is also trying to modernize in its own way, but previously they have had three debilitating labor union strikes.

Some of the Greek long-shore men and dock workers made $181,000 a year with overtime, while the workers on the Chinese side, as if they are in another country, make less than $23,000 per year. The union demands that nine people work a gantry crane, while the Chinese company uses only four. Way up in the cab of the crane, 49 feet in the air , should the heater break down, even if the operator’s hands become stiff from the cold, the worker is expected to continue working, even if a life threatening accident could result. One Greek worker came down to warm his hands and was fired.

No use repeating every detail in this article. If some union workers with overtime were receiving $181,000 a year, the management was certainly getting many times that sum in salaries. It would be interesting to know what the Chinese management and CEO was receiving in salary compared to the workers who “received typically less than $23,000.” The Cosco CEO noted that thousands of workers were applying to Cosco for jobs, even though “they work 24-7, 365 days a year.”

“Casting a glance at the Greek side, [the CEO] added, ‘Maybe in other terminals people work less. In any case, if it’s so bad, thousands of people would not be applying to work for Cosco.’”

What he fails to mention is that 24% of Greek workers are unemployed and workers are desperate and powerless. On the Greek side, the union agreed to a 20% pay cut.

The point of my rehearsing these economic facts is that the whole society ought to share in the lowering of a standard of living and not only the workers. There is a painful conversion of the worker taking place, in which hard work will not bring in a living wage, while the management and owners multiply their profits many-fold because of their saving on labor. Now the Greek European workers are not merely competing with Third World workers of other countries, but those workers right in their own country working for Chinese wages. I’m sure that the Chinese workers in China make even less. But remember that those that own the corporations and their management are pocketing huge profits that come out of the pockets of workers, who cannot compete with Third world workers. Huge profits accrue when corporations can pay them 23 cents an hour, when they had to pay the European worker $23 an hour.

Unions were always a stop gap fighting against that kind of exploitation and sometimes what they fought for represented all workers: week-ends off, time and a half for over-time, child labor laws, paid holidays, sick leave, etc. Now unions cannot even help the unionized, because in their dis-empowerment, they split the labor force here and cannot compete with global capital’s exploitation of divided and immobile local and national labor forces. Capital has no trouble crossing borders, while workers are arrested for illegal entry.

Third World workers ought to have jobs with living wages and benefits just like our workers. That huge profit from the wage differential between 23 cents and $23 an hour that goes into the pockets of the super-wealthy should be taxed for the sake of ameliorating the decrease in the western workers’ standard of living and another portion should be added to the Third World workers’ income in order to improve their wages and the conditions in which they work. They should not have to live in barracks away from their wives and children. Then they would also not be locked up in factories as if in prisons, being burned to death when fires break out. Fortunes should not be made by visiting misfortune on so many people. In a time of recession, in a time of war, all should have to sacrifice and not just the poor workers. During a war, of course, soldiers sacrifice their lives, while munitions and armament producers make a killing!

Written by peterkrey

October 14, 2012 at 12:58 am

Announcement of Scholardarity’s First Essay Contest

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Announcement of Scholardarity’s First Essay Contest

 

Peter Krey and Jason Zarri, co-founders of Scholardarity, are pleased to announce that Scholardarity is now accepting submissions for its first essay contest. The cost of entering the contest is $10.00. There will be prizes for the first, second, and third place winners. The contestant who wins first place will receive at least $200.00, the contestant who wins second place will receive at least $100.00, and the contestant who wins third place will receive at least $50.00; we say “at least” because the money received from the entrance fees will form a “pot”, which will be divided amongst the three winners: 50% of the pot for first place, 25% of the pot for second place, and 10% of the pot for third place.

There are two topics to choose from:

(1) What role should the government play in a society and what is the proper relation of the government and economy in order to best serve the common good? Would new approaches to the discipline of economics—for example, the evolutionary or complexity economics of Eric Beinhocker or other approaches, e.g., the social economics of Anghel Rugina, contribute to the well-being of society?

(2) What is the proper relationship between government and religion in a democracy? What are the effects, positive and/or negative, of government on religion, of religion on government, or of both on society as a whole? Essays may include the pros and cons of the separation of church and state, governmental restrictions on certain religious practices, as well as restrictions placed on a religion, such as wanting to impose its will on the whole society.

There will be two rounds: In Round 1, contestants will submit a proposal of about 500 words in which they give an outline for a paper on their selected topic. From these proposals, twenty will be selected as finalists to enter Round 2.  The finalists will write a paper based on their proposal, of about 2,000 words in length. All twenty of the finalists’ essays will be published on Scholardarity.

The deadline for submissions for Round 1 is November 15th, and the deadline for submissions for Round 2 is January 15th

To enter the contest, go to Scholardarity’s Contest Page to enter,  then send your proposal to

jlzarri@scholardarity.com, along with your name, address, and any other relevant contact information.

We look forward to hearing from you!

When a Psalm Opens up to a Reader, for Example Psalm 126: Psalm Therapy

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Opening a Psalm and Exploring Psalm Therapy-pages 1-8-signed

For the rest of the paper goto Scholardarity/Articles and Books/Theology/Religious Studies, and click on Psalms.

N.B.: When I work out the therapeutic value of the Psalms, I am not trying to reduce theology to psychology, but pointing out the psychological dimension of those rich prayers of lamentation and praise. When I gave the lecture for the Reformation Day Celebration at Gettysburg Seminary a few years ago, one minister said I was reducing theology to psychology. To work out theological therapy was my attempt to explore the rich psychological and therapeutic dimension of Luther’s theology, not to reduce it to psychology. For the latter lecture see: Luther’s In Depth Theology and Theological Therapy.

Written by peterkrey

October 11, 2012 at 6:48 pm

Posted in Uncategorized