A Sickness Not Unto Death (I Hope)

Friends,

I regret that I have recently slowed down with my writing due to illness. I am very hopeful that I will be feeling better soon, but until that time, if you are looking for something to read, try one or more of the essays under the “Reconciliation” tab above. Your prayers for my recovery would be much appreciated, as this has been a long-running ordeal.

Blessings,

Amy

Redeemed Suffering in Job

“Job’s Despair” by William Blake, circa 1805

If there is any book in scripture that reads like an examination of the purpose of human suffering, it is surely Job. This may not be the only place in the Bible where the concept is considered, but due to the nature of the text – a lengthy debate between one suffering man and his friends, with an appearance at the end by God Himself – it is particularly compelling. In one of the most famous passages in this book, Job boldly proclaims, “As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives…” (19:25a) I would like to take a moment to examine this comment and what exactly Job meant when he referred to God as his “Redeemer”.

When I as a 21st century Christian read Job’s words, I automatically think of Jesus Christ and His work on the cross. Without a doubt, His atonement has redeemed all who believe. Yet, Job lived long before Christ walked the earth; in fact, he lived long before most of the Messianic prophecies were made. Could Job have foreseen the work of Jesus Christ? Was that what he meant by the word “Redeemer”? Continue reading

The Public Acceptance Factor and Politics

The first page of UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s letter to EU Council President Donald Tusk triggering Article 50 and her country’s exit from the EU.

About a month ago, my husband and I ditched our TV package with Time Warner Cable and changed to Playstation Vue. In the greater scheme of things, this was a thoroughly unimportant event. We are simply the latest Americans to determine that we will no longer pay obscene amounts of money for channels we don’t even like in the first place. However, this decision has come with some technical challenges.

We started out with a Roku box and an antenna. It was somewhat cumbersome having to switch inputs to get to the channel I wanted at any given time, but I adjusted. Then my husband bought something called a Kinivo, and this is where things really got complicated. In order to pause and record all of our channels, including those we were receiving over the air, and also be able to watch Blu-Rays, we now have three different inputs, five remotes, several different apps, and more boxes than we had when we began. As I sit here now and type these words, I am not entirely certain how I get the over-the-air channels to appear on our TV. I consider myself to be a halfway intelligent person, but I am at a loss.

I have warned my husband that he is hitting up against something known as the WAF: the Wife Acceptance Factor. He was the one who first introduced me to this term, which is used in a joking manner by computer nerds when they are trying to get their wife to agree to the purchase and/or implementation of some new technology. Apparently, the original line of thinking was that if you wanted the wife to like a gadget, you had to make it more aesthetically appealing (Because us silly women don’t care about what a thing actually does, I suppose…). These days, it seems to be more a matter of pushing things as far as you can before the wife throws up her hands and throws the device out of the house.

It remains to be seen whether I will commit such a violation of marital submission with the Kinivo box. It is not quite the bane of my existence, but things may well have been better before it arrived. However, all this thinking about the “Wife Acceptance Factor” has caused me to wonder if there isn’t such a thing as a “Public Acceptance Factor”, and if we have indeed been hitting up against it during the past year. Continue reading

Those Who Live By Faith Are Just

“The Sermon of the Beatitudes” by James Tissot, circa 1886-69

This is the latest in a series of essays on the topic of reconciliation. You can find links to the previous articles at the bottom of this page.

In the last essay, I discussed how Christians are meant to live as humble rebels in a hostile world, serving as ambassadors for Christ. The first and most obvious way we do this is by proclaiming the gospel message and making disciples, which is the only true hope for reconciliation. That is the end to which everything else is a means. However, there is another aspect of our mission that I have previously hinted at and would like to dive into now: a humble rebel is committed to social justice.

Oddly, the concept of social justice makes some Christians uncomfortable. I believe this is because they are typically associating it with what is known as the “Social Gospel”, a theological movement that rose to prominence in the early days of the 20th century and was associated not only with a desire to help the poor and vulnerable, but also with theological liberalism and a de-emphasis on doctrine. I can understand why people would have serious reservations about that.

Social justice, on the other hand, is a very biblical concept. Indeed, it is one of the main themes of scripture, and it is inextricably linked with doctrine. The Bible actually has far more to say about social justice than any number of issues to which we devote more attention. It is part and parcel of reconciliation, for if you are not pursuing social justice, you are not only making reconciliation more difficult, but you are actively increasing discord.

Martin Luther is often said to have had his theological breakthrough when he read the Apostle Paul’s quotation of a phrase from the prophet Habakkuk: “The just shall live by faith.” (Romans 1:17, KJV) Luther’s story is a bit more complicated than that, but the importance of this verse is clearly evident. What I am about to suggest to you is that this phrase can also be reversed: not only do the just live by faith, but those who live by faith are just.

(DISCLAIMER: I am not challenging the traditional view of justification by grace alone through faith alone.)

Continue reading

The Speeding up of History

Woodcut of a printing press operation by Jost Amman, circa 1568

I can’t help observing that things seem to be moving a good deal faster today than they ever did in previous eras. My grandmother was born in 1932. Her childhood home had no flushable toilets, no heating or air conditioning, no car, no television, no radio, and certainly no computer. I scarcely need to mention that at the time she was born penicillin had yet to be discovered, “the pill” had not been legalized, the idea of sending a man into space was ridiculous, atomic science was in its infancy, there was no social safety net in the U.S., and the populations of such countries as China and India were only 1/3 of what they are now.

Universities were mostly for the rich or abnormal. In contrast, it wasn’t at all strange for people to drop out of school well before the age of eighteen. The Catholic Church still forbade saying Mass in anything but Latin, and Islam had barely touched the West. The entire continent of Africa was under the control of more powerful European nations. In the U.S., African-Americans were treated as slightly less than human and Japanese-Americans were being placed in internment camps. This is to say nothing of the enormous upheavals in the global economy and popular culture. The world, in short, was a vastly different place in 1932. Continue reading

No Thank You, Aquinas: Women Are Not Misbegotten

Depiction of Thomas Aquinas by Gentile da Fabriano, circa 1400

Thomas Aquinas was undoubtedly one of the greatest thinkers in Christian history. His Summa Theologica is quite possibly the most influential theological tome of all time. Christians of all stripes certainly have much to gain from reading the works of Aquinas.

However, my opinion of Aquinas is decidedly mixed. He introduced some great ideas into Christianity, but also some unfortunate errors that have resounded down to the present day. One such concept is the notion of “redemptive suffering”, which I have recently been studying. Aquinas was not the first person to teach this idea, but he certainly helped to lay the groundwork for a theology in which human suffering could itself hold salvific power.

Another place where Aquinas introduced erroneous thinking into Christianity is naturally rather important to me: his beliefs regarding women. The problematic section comes in Part One, Question 92 of the Summa. The first article he considers is, “Whether the woman should have been made in the first production of things?” Continue reading

Should Christians Use Satire?

Peter Sellers in “Dr. Strangelove”, perhaps the greatest satire film of all time. This is what’s at stake, people.

Yesterday, I was moseying around Twitter rather innocently: well, at least as innocently as possible for a person such as myself. As I was scrolling through the long line of news updates and quotations by famous theologians, I came across the following.

Could it be that The Gospel Coalition is taking a stand against satire and sarcasm? One Tweet does not amount to a campaign, but to have two of the biggest names in that organization make such comments does suggest a certain point of view. Continue reading

That Time Martin Luther Became a Thief

In this 1875 painting by Gustav Adolph Spangenberg, “Luther Making Music in the Circle of His Family”, Melanchthon is portrayed sitting at the table behind them. Apparently he was present at every Luther family gathering?

The relationship between the German Reformers Martin Luther and Philip Melanchthon has been puzzled over by scholars for centuries. They were fellow professors at the University of Wittenberg and collaborated on a number of projects, from a German translation of the Bible to the Augsburg Confession. Yet, there were undoubtedly some theological differences between them in later years, and all their contemporaries noted that their personalities were essentially opposites. Luther himself once characterized the relationship in the following way.

I am rough, boisterous, stormy, and altogether warlike. I am born to fight against innumerable monsters and devils. I must remove stumps and stones, cut away thistles, and thorns, and clear the wild forests; but Master Philip comes along softly and gently, sowing and watering with joy, according to the gifts which God has abundantly bestowed upon him.[1]

Continue reading

How Christ Redeemed Our Suffering

In a recent essay, I made a throwaway comment to the effect that Jesus Christ has not only redeemed us, but also our suffering. I then fell prey to a nagging question. “What exactly do you mean by that, Amy?” It seemed right to me that I should follow up on that thought and flush it out more fully. Here is the result.

Suffering is a result of sin, either directly or indirectly. There was no suffering before the Fall – not even anything we could truly call difficult. Following the Fall, we suffer in such myriad ways that we become desensitized to a certain percentage of it in order to simply get through the day. First, you have the obvious aches and pains, an assortment of physical maladies so diverse that it has made the health care industry one of the largest in the world, with plenty of room to grow. Then there is the emotional pain brought about by daily disappointments: friends letting you down, careers going south, opportunities missed, etc.

There is the persecution, both active and passive, faced by so many Christians worldwide, to which the New Testament devotes much of its focus on suffering. There are those times when the universe itself seems out to get you, so bemoaned in Alanis Morisette’s hit tune, “Ironic”. Often ignored is the spiritual suffering we all experience due to the distance between ourselves and God, which is only less painful because we are unaware of what perfect communion with God really feels like. Last of all, there’s the really big one: death.

The good news is that Christians do not suffer in the same way as everyone else. Yes, we are subject to the same kinds of suffering, and anyone who tells you that becoming a Christian will magically make your life suffering-free is either a liar or doesn’t believe in what the Bible has to say. They are setting you up to feel that either you are failing in your faith or God is failing as God, for you will inevitably face suffering. The difference is not that Christians don’t suffer, but rather that through the work of Jesus Christ, our suffering has been redeemed. Continue reading

We’re Rebranding

Friends,

In the interest of simplification and in order to reflect my shift in interest away from political topics and toward religious ones, I have dropped the “Church & State” label for this site and rebranded it simply as “Amy Mantravadi”. Think of it as the blog equivalent of a self-titled album. No, I did not do this in order to see my name in a really big font. If you have any complaints about the changes being made to this website, please mail all disgruntled letters to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, DC or Tweet them to @realDonaldTrump. Thank you.

Sincerely,

Amy Mantravadi