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Before Pilate

“Ecce Homo (Behold the Man!)” by Antonio Ciseri (1862), Museo Contonale d’Arte (PD-Art, PD-Old 100)

Pontius Pilate served as the Roman prefect of Judea from AD 26 to 36.

Pilate is mentioned in the four canonical Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), by the Roman historian Tacitus, by the Jewish historians Josephus and Philo of Alexandria, and others.  What we remember about Pilate, however, is his involvement in the trial of Christ.

Those familiar with the Gospels will recall the details of that trial:  how Pilate inquired whether Christ was an earthly king, in rebellion against Rome; how Pilate declared having found no fault in Christ; how Pilate offered to set Christ free for the crowd; how Pilate washed his hands, in a futile gesture proclaiming his innocence of Christ’s blood. Read more…


“Flagellation of Christ” by Peter Paul Rubens, Church of St. Paul, Antwerp, Author GFDL (CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported)

Ancient Romans would scourge a condemned criminal before putting him to death. The Roman scourge was a short whip with several thongs to which small pieces of metal were knotted. Sometimes the scourge had a hook at its end, for added impact.

Scourging quickly and painfully removed the skin, producing substantial blood. Shredded flesh and exposed muscles were intended not only as a punishment for the criminal, but a warning to others.

Jewish law permitted only forty stripes less one (Deut. 25: 3).  Scourging by the Romans had no legal limit to the number of blows.  With the objective crucifixion, however, the Centurion would direct the scourging stopped short of death.

“But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities:  the chastisement for our peace was upon Him; and by His stripes we are healed…” (Is. 53: 5-6).

Lord Jesus, You took our sins upon You.  Your flesh was torn that we might be healed.  How You could have loved us so much, we cannot fathom.

Help us to persevere in the face of cruelty and injustice. Help us to be the reflection of Your love to the world.


Originally posted 3/27/13



Rangifer Tarandus with calf (Arctic deer known as “rheindeer” in Eurasia, “caribou” in North America), Author Lukas Riebling (CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported)

Each spring Arctic caribou migrate north to their traditional calving grounds. The journey north then back again south in the fall runs them approximately 800 miles.

By twos and threes, by tens and thousands, they gather.  Steadily heading in a direction unseen, the caribou cross icy streams and tractless wastes.  Ever watchful for predators, the animals search for tender shoots beneath the snow.

At last they arrive at their destination…as generations have done before them. And newborn calves (protected in their mothers’ wombs all through the cold winter  months) finally meet the world.

Who provides directions to these animals?  Who supplies their nourishment? Who designed their bodies for this climate and this endeavor?  Who engineered their instincts so that calves are born en masse, giving each the best chance for survival?

There is a single answer to all these questions.  And the same God who watches over these creatures with such care watches over us. Read more…

Dark Road

Neurologic testing several months ago revealed that I have cerebral vascular disease.  I have, in fact, had a series of what are termed “silent” strokes.  Medication I was taking masked the subtle symptoms.

The result of inadequate blood flow (“ischemia”), silent strokes can be a predictor of Parkinson’s Disease and dementia, as well as more strokes to come.   The research is not entirely clear as yet.

Contributing Factors

Strokes run in my family, so they are no great surprise.  All I can do to moderate the risk is watch my weight, eat a diet low in sodium, get regular exercise, and attempt to control my blood pressure.

Unfortunately, I have had severe allergic reactions to most blood pressure medications.

No less than eight of the other medications I was prescribed for years (not to mention the OTC medications I took to reduce my reliance on those prescriptions) were all known to raise blood pressure.  There is every likelihood they were contributing factors to the ischemia.

What we rely on to ease our pain and keep us safe can actually be a source of danger.

Between the Ears

In any case, the diagnosis is a little too close to home for calm disinterest on my part.

Lawyers and writers define themselves by what they have “between the ears”.  Our perception of reality and capacity to convey that to others constitute who we are, at least in human terms.

A Different Perspective

“We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair;  persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed –  always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body” (2 Cor. 4: 8-10).

We forget that God has a different perspective.

God sees our lives from beginning to end, and knows beforehand every trial we will face.  We may pray for a cup to be taken away.  But if that is not to be, He will neither leave nor forsake us. Read more…


Desert rock formation, Israel, Author Tiia Monto (CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported)

Though He parted the Red Sea for them, the Lord did not lead the Israelites directly to the Promised Land. Instead, they spent 40 years in the desert learning to trust Him.

That is how it works. Over and over, we are drawn to Him in need. The more self-reliant we think we are, the less we have learned.

God uses our very needs as His tools. This is not abandonment – nor even “hands off” management – but loving care, based on an intimate knowledge of each of us.

Wherever we may be in our lives, He is with us, guiding our steps with the goal of bringing us home.

You in Your mercy have led forth the people whom You have redeemed; You have guided them in Your strength to Your holy habitation” (Ex. 15: 13).

Lord God, You parted one sea and stilled the waters of another. Powers and principalities are as nothing before You. This is the strength You offer us.

Like Moses before us, we call on Your name. You have purchased and will plant us in the mountain of Your inheritance. We praise and thank You for all You have given us, and all we know You will accomplish in our lives.


Originally posted 8/5/12


Love Poured Out

“Jesus Carrying the Cross” by El Greco (16th Century), National Museum of Decorative Arts, Buenos Aires, Source (PD-Art, Old-100)

The 18th Century rabbi, Israel ben Eliezer, wrote of suffering:

“Each prayer has its own meaning, and it is, therefore, the specific key to a door in the Divine Palace.  But a broken heart is an axe that opens all the gates.”

The sick, the needy, the desperate, the lost; the grieving; the persecuted and imprisoned; the abandoned and alone.  These understand suffering.

To the sick and those in pain, Christ is the Great Physician.  To those in need, the desperate, and the lost, He is the Way.  To the grieving, He is the Man of Sorrows. To the persecuted and imprisoned, He is the Advocate and Counselor.  To the abandoned and alone, He is the Beloved.

The source of all comfort, Christ is with us in all trials.  None of us is truly abandoned, for He is there.  In return, Christ asks that we extend a hand to the lost and less fortunate, that we reach out in love even when  we may be rejected.

Christ does not urge us to live cautious lives.  Love is not measured with an eyedropper, in safe increments.  It is poured out, as balm on the wounds of the world.  As His was for us.

Originally posted 5/26/12



Prone to Wander

“The Prodigal Son” by Rodin, Author SLOWKING (CC BY-NC 3.0 Unported)

You number my wanderings;
Put my tears into Your bottle;
Are they not in Your book?
” (Ps. 56:8).

The old hymn “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” was penned by Robert Robinson before the American Revolution.  It contains the aching lyric, “Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the God I love…”

The Bible speaks again and again of man’s wandering from the throne of God.  For having murdered his brother, Cain was made a vagabond on the earth (Gen. 4:12).  Hagar was sent to wander in the wilderness by Abraham (Gen. 21:14), at Sarah’s jealous urging (Gen. 21:10).  Israel was caused to wander for forty years in the desert, for having offended God by little faith (Num. 32: 13).  The Book of Job and Book of Psalms both characterize the wicked as wandering about in search of food (Job 15:23; Ps. 59:15).

Some four thousand years later, this flesh of ours longs to wander still.  Read more…

A Secular Theology, Part 3

Demonstration for Planned Parenthood, Author The All Nite Images from NYC, Source flickr at (CC BY-SA 2.0 Generic)

In an article from the Journal of Christian Legal Thought titled “The New Dignity”, Roberta Ahmanson makes this stark observation:

“Planned Parenthood executives bargain to sell aborted body parts, Bruce Jenner strikes a pose across the cover of Vanity Fair…and California Governor Jerry Brown signs a law allowing doctors to kill.

All in the name of dignity [1].”

Underlying all these events, as Ahmanson points out, is a radical change in our culture’s understanding of human dignity.

Professor Emeritus George Kateb of Princeton describes this new view of dignity as grounded in man’s ability to defy nature, to go beyond natural limitations and recreate himself.  That runs counter to the inalienable quality with which the Declaration of Independence described us as being “endowed by our Creator”.

Ahmanson defines the new dignity more precisely (if more prosaically):

“Dignity is no longer so much about who or what we are:  it is about what our unfettered will can do, and what it can forbid others to do.”

Freedom and Limits

Andrew DeLoach in “Our Cultural Counterdream” explores the pursuit of unconstrained freedom further.  DeLoach is especially critical of the law for supporting this pursuit.  He concludes that the desire to abolish all limits, in fact, arises from nihilism – a sense of boredom so extreme it finds no value in the norm.

DeLoach explains the Christian understanding of dignity this way:

“The imago Dei [image of God] is given freely to us so that, in response, we would be a living gift to others.  We are more truly human – and more truly free – when we trust in the Creator to orient our desires and actions according to the limitations He has given for our good.”

Read more…

A Secular Theology, Part 2

White supremacists clash with police, Charlottesville, VA, Author Evan Nesterak, Source flickr at (CC Attribution 2.0 Generic)

We continue our investigation of the cultural changes taking place in the world around us.  These carry many labels:  political correctness, intersectionality, neo-paganism, cultural Marxism, and social justice religion.

Thaddeus Williams in “A New Theocracy” has this to say about them:

“God…designed us to run and thrive on meaning.  We are wired for objective, not subjective, Creator-formed, not creature-fabricated, transcendent and God-centered, not transient and self-oriented meaning…Deprive a culture of transcendent meaning long enough and that culture will take to politics with the ferocity of an absolutist religious fanatic [1].”

Williams points out that the young men in post-WWI Germany who ultimately chose to follow Adolf Hitler were not searching for ideas, but personal meaning.  They were drawn toward violence; they thrived on hostility against Jews, Communists, gypsies, and homosexuals.

Former white nationalist, Christian Piccolini put this in context, while commenting on the recent racist demonstration in Charlottesville, VA:

“I believe that people become radicalized, or extremist, because they’re searching for three very fundamental human needs:  identity, community and a sense of purpose.”

That these same needs are feeding the secular gospel should give us all pause. Read more…

A Secular Theology, Part 1

Gay Pride Parade, Sao Paulo, Brazil (2004), Author Rose Brasil/ABr, Source Agencia Brasil (CC Attribution 3.0 Brazil License)

I would like over the next few weeks to discuss several articles from the Journal of Christian Legal Thought.  These address the profound cultural changes we see taking place around us, and the threats those changes pose – both to Christianity and humanity at large.

“…who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator…” (1 Rom. 25).

“Drag has always served a purpose…We mock identity…We show people we’re shape shifters.   We are God in drag.  That’s our role — is to remind people of that.”

-Ru Paul, [2]

We begin with an article by Thaddeus Williams titled “A New Theocracy” [1].  Williams examines a secular theology which is rapidly gaining ground.  He terms this Contemporary Western Creation Worship to distinguish it from the Creator worship of historic Christianity.

Secular Belief System

Williams identifies four essential beliefs of this secular, postmodern theology:

  1. That man is autonomous from any higher authority.
  2. That man can define himself in whatever way he likes; that he determines his meaning and purpose on earth.
  3. That man was never fallen; that he is “naturally good” as the philosopher, Jean Jacques Rousseau maintained. Consequently, that humanity is continually evolving toward its ideal.
  4. That there is no such thing as sin.  Sin, if it exists at all, is to be attributed to “institutions” according to Rousseau; to the “oppressor class” in Neo-Marxist terms.

In sum, “Self has become a god and self-fulfillment our salvation,” as Paul Hiebert said.

After all, how can human beings be in violation of a moral law, if their desires are the moral law?  Never mind that past generations would have viewed this as arrogance of the highest order.

These beliefs are diametrically opposed to the beliefs of Christianity.  Not only do they constitute a false gospel.  The behavior which flows from them is deeply disturbing.

Disturbing Behavior

The assumption is made that human beings are guaranteed a life free of guilt, when God is removed from the picture.  But are they?

Without God and redemption on the basis of Christ’s sacrificial death and Resurrection, man is deprived of justification.  However, the desire for justification remains.  Without God, man turns to society, the law, educational institutions, the media, even entertainment sources, in search of it.

A constant imputation of guilt to others is required to shore up the sense of moral superiority.  Those not in accord with a personal assessment of blamelessness are viewed as the enemy.

All who oppose this secular theology are characterized as bigots, phobics, and fascists.  First demonized, they must in the end be silenced. Read more…