Friday, December 20, 2013

All Around the Web - December 20, 2013

Russell Moore - Rethinking Our Holly-Jolly Christmas Songs
But then this man explained why he found the music so bad. It wasn’t just that it was cloying. It’s that it was boring.

“Christmas is boring because there’s no narrative tension,” he said. “It’s like reading a book with no conflict.”

Now he had my attention.

I’m sure this man had thought this for a long time, but maybe he felt freer to say it because we were only hours out from hearing the horrifying news of a massacre of innocent children in Connecticut. For him, the tranquil lyrics of our Christmas songs couldn’t encompass such terror. Maybe we should think about that.

Of course, some of the blame is on our sentimentalized Christmas of the American civil religion. Simeon the prophet never wished anyone a “holly-jolly Christmas” or envisioned anything about chestnuts roasting on an open fire. But there’s our songs too, the songs of the church. We ought to make sure that what we sing measures up with the, as this fellow would put it, “narrative tension” of the Christmas story.

The first Christmas carol, after all, was a war hymn. Mary of Nazareth sings of God’s defeat of his enemies, about how in Christ he had demonstrated his power and “has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate” (Lk. 1:52). There are some villains in mind there.

CBN - Video Exclusive: Mike Huckabee Tells Brody File: "There's An Openness Now" To Run For White House




The Gospel Coalition - Why You Should Be a Presbyterian
Despite what you may think, Presbyterian ecclesiology is not primarily defined by churches governed by elders, but by churches governed by presbyteries. Presbyteries can encompass the elders of a local church, a regional church, and what is termed a "general assembly." This view is established from the oneness of the visible church. Based on the sufficiency of Scripture, Presbyterians hold that the church is governed jure divino (by divine right). There are certain fixed principles in the government of the church. We hold that Christ has blessed the church with the Scriptures, church officers, and sacraments. In doing so, Christ has "ordained therein his system of doctrine, government, discipline, and worship, all of which are either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary inference may be deduced therefrom" (Presbyterian Church in America Book of Church Order).

While there is much that Presbyterians and classic congregationalists can agree on, nevertheless, against the congregationalist view, Presbyterians affirm the authority of presbyteries beyond the local church. That's the crux of the issue between Presbyterians and congregationalists: authority.

The Gospel Coalition - Why You Should Be a Congregationists
Congregationalists, Presbyterians, and the reformers have all historically agreed Matthew 16:18-19 and Matthew 18:15-18 deal with excommunication and church discipline (see, for example, the Heidelberg Catechism questions 83-85). These verses, therefore, define where church power is located. To cast members out of communion with the visible church is the most awesome and fearful task given to the church in Scripture. If, as the Reformation taught us, the definition of the church is the Word and the sacraments rightly administered, then locating the power to remove a person from the sacrament of communion will delimit the boundaries of church government.

For Presbyterians, Peter received the keys of the kingdom on behalf of the apostles, who were the forerunners of elders—and therefore all elders since the apostolic age are exclusively responsible for church government. Thus, when looking at Matthew 18, Presbyterians argue that "tell the church" (v. 17) must mean "tell the elders."

New York Times - Baffling 400,000-Year-Old Clue to Human Origins | The official religion of secularism takes another hit.
Scientists have found the oldest DNA evidence yet of humans’ biological history. But instead of neatly clarifying human evolution, the finding is adding new mysteries.

In a paper in the journal Nature, scientists reported Wednesday that they had retrieved ancient human DNA from a fossil dating back about 400,000 years, shattering the previous record of 100,000 years.

The fossil, a thigh bone found in Spain, had previously seemed to many experts to belong to a forerunner of Neanderthals. But its DNA tells a very different story. It most closely resembles DNA from an enigmatic lineage of humans known as Denisovans. Until now, Denisovans were known only from DNA retrieved from 80,000-year-old remains in Siberia, 4,000 miles east of where the new DNA was found. 

The mismatch between the anatomical and genetic evidence surprised the scientists, who are now rethinking human evolution over the past few hundred thousand years. It is possible, for example, that there are many extinct human populations that scientists have yet to discover. They might have interbred, swapping DNA. Scientists hope that further studies of extremely ancient human DNA will clarify the mystery.

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