Monthly Archives: June 2012

Napalm Girl Photo – Unwanted Modern Question Entered my Head

Stumbled across this link with this famous photo. (HT: Mockingbird)

The unwanted question was how many “Napalm Girls” have we created with drone attacks, but we no longer have the heart or conscience to at least look at the pictures? Here is the Fox News report on the latest Drone victory.

Here from Wikipedia are some estimates and numbers of these attacks.

I think I’ll go get something to eat to get that unpleasant question out of my head.

1) US Drone Strike Statistics estimate according to the New America Foundation analysis of Newspaper articles.[2] Year Number of
Attacks Number Killed
Min. Max.
2004 1 4 5
2005 2 6 7
2006 2 23 23
2007 4 56 77
2008 33 274 314
2009 53 369 725
2010 118 607 993
2011 70 378 536
2012 19 102 128
Total 302 1,819 2,808

2) US Drone Strike statistic based on months of research by a team of journalists of the Bureau of Investigative Journalism:[3][16][22]

Total reported killed: 2,464 – 3,145
Civilians reported killed: 484 – 830
Children reported killed: 175
Total reported injured: 1,181-1,294
Strikes under the Bush Administration: 52
Strikes under the Obama Administration: 275
Total strikes: 327

Dogmatic shouldn’t always be a bad word, becasue this catholic faith saves…


Text: John 3:1-17, Athanasian Creed
Full Draft of Sermon

This was Trinity Sunday which is the traditional day for the Athanasian Creed to be recited. (I’m not sure how old the tradition is actually, but I remember it as a little kid.) Within the Lutheran Book of Concord there are the three historic creeds of the Western Church – Nicene, Apostle’s and Athanasian. The Athanasian is the longest and in many ways strongest in its wording.

The gauge of its strength might be in the last line which it leaves ringing in your ears: “This is the catholic faith; which except a man believe faithfully and firmly, he cannot be saved.”

You don’t get much more dogmatic than that. But in this case that dogmatism is a very good thing. And you are fooling yourself if you think Jesus wasn’t at times dogmatic. The text is Nicodemus coming to talk with Jesus. And while John 3:16 gets all the press, there are three elements that help us with our unease at clear doctrine. First, and for me the most memorable of Jesus’ lines, is his replay to Nicodemus – “You are the teacher of Israel?” (John 3:10) Its a sarcastic lament at the lack of spiritual understanding. Within the same text Jesus says three times, “truly, truly, I say to you”. In other word, pay attention to this, its important. And that phrase tells us what the third point of dogmatism is, Jesus was dogmatic about one very specific thing, himself. Even in John 3:16. God loved the word and sent his son so that whoever believes in him should have eternal life. John 3:15-17 repeats the “in him” three times. Not that the rest is unimportant, but salvation is in Jesus.

The doctrines of the church are there for a reason. They point to Christ. The are mileposts or guide markers on the narrow way. Is it possible that we turn them into a law that steals life? Yes. But that is not their intention. Clear doctrine helps us to stop lying to ourselves, repent and believe in Christ. Stuff as central as the Athanasian Creed should be strident.

Bad Theology Kills

This is a deeply reflective article by a Washington Post Photo-journalist who recently photographed and watched the death of a snake handling preacher.

There is a medieval university phrase that “theology is the queen of the sciences”. What that meant was that all the other subjects studied were fed into theology as well as theology influencing how those subjects were studied. What we think about God changes what we can see. Likewise what we know (or think we know) about the world influences what we think of God. If I come at God knowing that he doesn’t exist, I won’t find him. (Luke 16:19-31 Dives and Lazarus) If I think God is all about signs, I will see them everywhere or go to great length to see them. (John 2:23-24) When Jesus says he is the door (John 10:7) or I am the way (John 14:6), or that all these testify about me (Luke 24:44-45) what he is saying is that the starting point of good life giving theology is Jesus. The Christian is conformed to Christ.

Bad theology distracts us from Christ. It places the emphasis elsewhere. In this particular case it comes from an incredibly stupid error. Mark 16:17-18 is part of a larger section Mark 16:9-20. The gospel according Mark, as we know because of modern critical biblical studies, ends at verse 8. All good study bibles readily accessible explain this. All good pastors should be able to explain this. Mark 16:17-18 should not be part of the scriptures. It was at best somebody’s attempt to add an ending to the Gospel according to Mark. The snake-handling preacher was attempting to live out these verses that shouldn’t be there. But here is the thing. The emphasis is moved from Christ to: a) the preacher, b) the signs and c) what faith can do for me. Because of Bad Theology, the unwillingness ignorance or inability to take into theology the evidence from other paths of study, this 44 year old man was handling rattlesnakes and drinking poison. Because of Bad Theology those that were following him are left with questions and guilt – instead of the gospel of Christ crucified and risen.

“Sometimes, I feel like we’re all guilty of negligent homicide,” one man wrote to me in a Facebook message following Mack’s death. “I went down there a ‘believer.’ That faith has seriously been called into question. I was face-to-face with him and watched him die a gruesome death. . . . Is this really what God wants?”

Likewise because of bad theology – a relativism that this man’s authentic faith should be recorded but not confronted, an ignorance of the good Samaritan (Luke 10:33-34) or the woman at the well (John 4) – the photojournalist takes pictures of a death instead of helping.

We all have a theology. We all have ideas that govern and shape how we view the world and interpret events. Bad theology kills. One other of Jesus’ I am sayings is “I am the light of the world.” (John 8:12) Centering on Jesus, conforming your theology to Christ is coming into the light. Coming into the light is starting to see the world as God intended. No longer blinded by bad theology. And having a good theology, centered on Christ, gives life. There is nothing more practical than good theology. Our culture no longer teaches good theology as a birthright. In fact much the opposite. Bad theology comes in the air. Which means that Christians need to take more seriously than maybe our grandfathers Jesus’ warnings to watch. (Luke 21:34-36)

[Picture is Fra Angelica – Virgin and Child with SS Dominic and Aquinas – not bad theologians, who along with Mary point to the Child in the middle – a visual picture of good theology]