Lion and lamb: Pope Benedict XVI and liberal Catholic Hans Küng met in 1962 when they were both young and progressive. Joseph Ratzinger, the future pope, took a turn to the right and may have played a role when Küng was later stripped of his privilege to teach on the grounds that his theology was incompatible with Catholic doctrine. Küng called Ratzinger a “grand inquisitor.” But after a recent four-hour meeting, Küng said the pope isn’t as reactionary as many assume, and needs to be given time. The two discussed the notion that science and religion are not incompatible, and the role of the church in a secular world (New York Times, September 27).
I had just shown a group of pastors and laity a scene from the movie Chariots of Fire. Christian missionary and runner Eric Liddell says about his running and his God, "To win is to honor him." A man in the group responded, “I don’t believe that line comes from Liddell. It’s pure Hollywood. It is out of character for Liddell to be so focused on winning.” Is winning compatible with the Christian faith? What are the criteria by which we measure "winning"?
I laughed out loud when I first heard Martin Luther’s explanation of how the Reformation happened: “While I have been sleeping, or drinking Wittenberg beer with my friend Philip and with Amsdorf, it is the Word that has done great things. . . . I have done nothing, I have let the Word act. It is all powerful, it takes hearts prisoner.” When I was sitting there in Intro to Church History sessions, preaching and reforming sounded heady, or easy.
A few months ago, the evening news was playing in the background as our family was getting organized for supper. I overheard the anchor ask, “Who is the most powerful preacher in Charlotte? Is it . . . ?” and he named four relatively prominent clergy. “Call in and vote! Or e-mail us! And we’ll tell you tomorrow night who really is the most powerful preacher!”
Christian Identity in the Jewish and Graeco-Roman World. Judith M. Lieu. Oxford Univ. Press, 384 pp., $99.00. In this multifaceted and sophisticated undertaking, Lieu explores the ways in which early Christian texts depict an emerging Christian identity and reflect the embeddedness of that identity within the ancient world. For all who struggle with the question of what it means to be a Christian, Lieu presents a thoughtful guide.