Archive - Dec 2009 - Oct 2016

Friday, 6 April 2018

Colleagues List, April 8th, 2018

Vol. XIII No. 39 


Wayne A. Holst, Editor
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In this first Colleagues List mailing after Easter, I am pleased
to introduce the story of the miraculous spread of the Christian movement, that began with Jesus' resurrection and continued through the first 3-4 centuries of the early Christian era.

In this case, I provide a book notice of a new title by Bart Ehrman, a favourite author of mine. Please enjoy The Triumph of Christianity recently published.

Included in this issue are fresh "Colleague Contributions", "Net Notes" and "Wisdom of the Week" selections for your edification.

Thanks to all of you for reading.




Book Notice -

How a Forbidden Religion Swept the World,
by Bart D. Ehrman

Simon and Schuster, Feb. 2018
Hardcover. 335 pages. $32.38 CAD.
ISBN #978-1-5011-3670-2

Publishers Promo:

From the bestselling authority on early Christianity,
the story of how Christianity grew from a religion of
twenty or so peasants in rural Galilee to the dominant

religion in the West in less than four hundred years.

Christianity didn’t have to become the dominant religion
in the West. It easily could have remained a sect of Judaism
of Judaism fated to have the historical importance of the
Sadducees or the Essenes.

In The Triumph of Christianity, Bart Ehrman, a master
explainer of Christian history, texts and traditions, shows
how a religion whose first believers were twenty or so
illiterate day laborers in a remote area of the empire
became the official religion of Rome, converting some
thirty million people in just four centuries.

The Triumph of Christianity combines deep knowledge
and meticulous research in an eye-opening, immensely
readable narrative that upends the way we think about
the single most important cultural transformation our
world has ever seen - one that revolutionized art, music,
literature, philosophy, ethics, economics, and law.


Author's Words (some editing and paraphrasing follows)
I have a different perspective on Christianity than I did as a college student forty years ago. Rather than experiencing the faith personally, I now do so as a historian specializing in the study of religion...

In the first four Christian centuries, the religions of the Roman empire came under assault by those proposing a new faith declaring that only the worship of the god of Jesus could be considered true religion. As Christianity spread, it destroyed the other religions in its wake... these were considered by many to be good and true. But Christians insisted they were evil and false. (Some Christians today, in countries dominated by Islam - for example - must be experiencing something similar to people of the past who had previously followed faiths overcome by a newly dominating Christianity).
There are some differences to what took place so many centuries ago. The Christian tradition did not disappear as much of paganism did in the past. Today, there are still two billion Christians in the world...
The triumph of Christianity proved, however, to be the single greatest cultural transformation our world has ever seen... We would never have had the Middle Ages, the Reformation, the Renaissance, or modernity as we know it... There would have been no Milton, Shakespeare or Chaucer; no Michelangelo, Leonardo, or Rembrandt.  No Mozart, Handel or Bach. There may have been other faiths in their places, but we can't know if they would have been better or worse. Nevertheless, they would have been incalculably different...
By conquering the Roman world, and then the entire West, Christianity not only gave rise to a vast and awe-inspiring set of cultural artifacts; it also changed the way people look at the world and choose to live in it. Modern sensitivities, values and ethics have all been radically affected by the Christian tradition. This is true for all who live in the West, whether they claim allegiance to Christianity, or some other religious tradition, or none at all...
Christians, as they assumed power in the former Roman empire, preached and urged an ethic of love and service.  One person was not more important than another. All were on the same footing before God... The very idea that these values were honoured over a long period of time resulted in changed societies from what had existed before. After Christianity became dominant, it advocated not an ideology of dominance, but of love and service. This affected the history of the West in ways that simply cannot be calculated...
Why did this new faith take over the Roman world, leading to the Christianizing of the West? This question should be a matter of interest to a wide range of people today, and not only Christians.
Some Christians claim that this happened because God was behind it. I respect this view, but cannot agree. If God wanted the whole world to be Christian, why is the entire world not Christian?
Many secular historians will argue that Christianity became the religion of the Roman empire because Constantine converted to Christianity. I no longer believe that was the reason. I now believe Christianity would have succeeded even if Constantine had not converted. That will be one of the theses underlying my book.
I do not celebrate here the rise of a dominant Christianity in the West. To me, it was not a matter of Christian dominance as a good or a bad thing. Whenever one movement dominates another, there are winners and losers. We need to consider what that meant for both of these.
In this book I will seek to bring out both good and bad results from the dominance of Christianity...
I do not want to undervalue the enormous benefits derived from the triumph of Christianity... but my main point is this. Every triumph is also a defeat, and the ecstasies of those who prevail are matched by the agonies of those who lose.
(paraphrased and reduced from the book's Introduction)


Brief Bio:
Bart D. Ehrman is the author or editor of more than thirty books, including the New York Times bestsellers Misquoting Jesus and How Jesus Became God. Ehrman is a professor of religious studies at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and leading authority on the New Testament and the history of early Christianity.
He has been featured in Time, The New Yorker, and The Washington Post, and has appeared on NBC, CNN, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, The History Channel, National Geographic, BBC, major NPR shows, and other top print and broadcast media outlets. His most recent book is The Triumph of Christianity.

Author's Wikipedia Bio (including his major works)

My Thoughts:

Over the years, I have enjoyed teaching from many of Ehrman's books, and I look forward to the opportunity to do so with this one as well.

I say this not because I will always agree with everything Ehrman writes. Rather, unlike other authors I am privileged to use in my classes, my students and I begin thinking in new ways. I do not look upon the essence of my faith as solid and unchanging, but as porous and ever-evolving. While this challenges how I may have been taught by good people in the past, it works for me today - especially under the
chaotic faith conditions with which we must contend.
Frequently, I stop to discern where I do stand on historical truth and faith affirmations. It is good to have mentors to guide me in this. But I also need mentors who challenge what I may have once firmly believed. That is what Ehrman does, and in so-doing, he helps me to refine and to enhance my understanding of what matters.
Many of those I have the opportunity to teach today seem to want the same mentoring as me. "Don't give me the answers" - they seem to be saying. I once believed "the answers" only to have found them wrong or inadequate. My students seem to be saying - "Help me to think through faith matters and religious history for myself so that I am further along the path to the truth than I was before."
And so, with this new offering from the author, I invite you also to consider why Christianity triumphed in the West almost 2 millennia ago. As it was then, so it is now. There are both winners and losers when one group triumphs over another. We will all be the better if we learn the good and the bad of such developments.

I want to live integrally with both ancient truth and modern realities.


Buy the book from



Mark Whittall,
Ottawa, ON.

Sermons and Blog,
March 31st, 2018

"Two Worlds Collide"


Jim Taylor,
Okanagan, BC

Personal Web Log,
April 1st, 2018

"The Biggest Religious Event in the World"


John Stackhouse Jr.
Moncton, NB

April 1st, 2018

"What We Can Learn from Easter, 2018"


Elfrieda Schroeder,
Winnipeg, MB

"What If?"


Martin Marty,
Chicago, IL.

April 2nd, 2018

"Parades, Peeps and Paradoxes"


Thomas Ryan,
Boston, MA

April 3rd, 2018

"A Journey With the Qu'ran and the Bible"



Wading Into Heavy Waters

Religion News Service,
April 2nd, 2018


The Facebook Debacle

April 5th, 2018


But They Are Split on How it Should be Regulated

Angus Reid Institute,
April 4th, 2018


First Celebration There Since the Reformation

La Croix International
April 5th, 2018


Coptic Christianity Has New Roots Beyond Egypt

The Atlantic Online
March 31st, 2018


West is Accused of Lack of Caring,
Concern for Human Disaster

La Croix International,
April 4th, 2018


Our Churches Can Be Enhanced
by Thinking Positively
(an Evangelical Perspective)

Christian Week
April 4th, 2018


Behaviour of Poor People Seeking Hopefulness

UCA News
April 2nd, 2018


Common Challenges Trump
Longstanding Theological Divisions

Christianity Today
April 2nd, 2018


At the Fiftieth Anniversary of His Death,
A Time to Reflect

Religion and Politics,
April 3rd, 2018



Globe and Mail
April 4th, 2018

Presidents have a limitless base of expertise on which
to draw: the giant bureaucracy, expert reports and studies,
think tanks and universities. This President doesn’t need

The Fox bloviators are good enough. Some of its talking
heads graduate to major White House jobs, the latest two
being national security adviser John Bolton and chief
economic adviser Larry Kudlow.

With White House officials and Congressional lawmakers,
the Trudeau government has waged a strong lobbying effort,
particularly on the trade issue. If it wants to be more
effective it should focus on where the real power lies – at TTN,
the Trump Television Network.

-  Lawrence Martin



From Sojourners and the Bruderhof online:

Love is holy because it is like grace --
the worthiness of its object is never really what

- Marilynne Robinson


At some thoughts one stands perplexed –
especially at the sight of people’s sin – and
wonders whether one should use force or
humble love. Always decide to use humble
love. If you resolve on that, once and for all,
you may subdue the whole world. Loving
humility is marvelously strong, the strongest
of all things, and there is nothing else like it.

- Fyodor Dostoevsky


When our days become dreary with low-hovering
 clouds of despair, and when our nights become
darker than a thousand midnights, let us remember
that there is a creative force in this universe, to pull
down the gigantic mountains of evil, a power that is
able to make a way out of no way and transform
dark yesterdays into bright tomorrows. Let us realize
the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends
toward justice.

- Martin Luther King, Jr.


A person who cares nothing for praise or blame
knows great inward peace….Praise does not make
you holier than you are, nor blame more wicked.

You are exactly what you are, and cannot ever be
any better or worse than that, in the eyes of God.
Attend to what is really within you, then, and you
will not care what others say of you. People look
at externals, but God looks at the heart. They
weigh actions; God knows your intent….

To feel no need of human support and assurance
is a mark of inward confidence – of those who
truly walk with God in their hearts.

- Thomas à Kempis


Anxiety and fear are what we know best in this
fantastic century of ours. Wars and rumors of wars.
From civilization itself to what seemed the most
unalterable values of the past, everything is
threatened or already in ruins. We have heard
so much tragic news that when the news is good
we cannot hear it. But the proclamation of Easter
Day is that all is well. And as a Christian, I say
this not with the easy optimism of one who has
never known a time when all was not well but as
one who has faced the cross in all its obscenity
as well as in all its glory, who has known one way
or another what it is like to live separated from
God. In the end, his will, not ours, is done. Love
is the victor.

Death is not the end. The end is life. His life and
our lives through him, in him. Existence has greater
depths of beauty, mystery, and benediction than the
wildest visionary has ever dared to dream.

Christ our Lord has risen.

- Frederick Buechner



Rituals from Around the World

The Atlantic Online
April 3rd, 2018

Global April Blossoms

The Atlantic Online
April 5th, 2018


CLOSING THOUGHT - Rwanda will never leave me:

...It's in the pores of my body...We saw lots of them

dying, and lots of those eyes still haunt me —
angry eyes, innocent eyes.

- Romeo Dallaire




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